Vivendi moves for stake in Banijay-Zodiak

French media giant Vivendi is in talks to buy a minority stake in the soon-to-be merged Banijay Group and Zodiak Media production and distribution group.

Marco-BassettiVivendi confirmed yesterday that it is in exclusive talks to buy into to the new company.

In a note in its first half 2015 financial results, the French media firm said: “Vivendi has entered into exclusive negotiations to become a minority partner in the international group that will be created as a result of the merger between Banijay and Zodiak.”

On a call following the results announcement, Arnaud de Puyfontaine, Vivendi chairman and CEO, told investors: “Thanks to a strong financial structure and a two-year time frame to reallocate capital, Vivendi can demonstrate agility in response to potential opportunities.

“A good example of this is what we have just entered into exclusive negotiation to become a minority partner in what will be the world’s third-largest producer of entertainment programming, resulting from the merger between Banijay and Zodiak.”

A Vivendi spokesman told TBI that the move for a stake in Banijay-Zodiak was perfectly logical in light of its increased investment in content and strategy to make select bolt-on acquisitions. Canal+ is also seeking to add original entertainment shows to its line-up and to feed its DTT channels with formats, which Banijay Zodiak could help provide.

Vivendi owns Canal+ and StudioCanal, which, having been a movie specialist, is now investing heavily in TV production and distribution, predominantly in the scripted TV space. It has acquired prodcos including Red Production Company and Tandem, and is about to launch European drama series The Last Panthers internationally.

Buying into Banijay-Zodiak would also give Vivendi clout in the entertainment and formats space, as well as an interest in TV production in the US and the Nordics.Marc Antoine DHalluin2The merged Banijay Zodiak will have combined revenues of US$1 billion, and a huge distribution catalogue that will go out via a new sales arm.

Banijay founder Stéphane Courbit will be chairman of Banijay-Zodiak and Marco Bassetti (above) will be CEO. Zodiak Media boss Marc-Antoine d’Halluin (right) will exit.

Neither company would provide further information on the Vivendi talks, with Banijay saying it was “unable to comment on the contents of Vivendi’s recent interim results”. Both Banijay and Zodiak are backed by Italian media firm DeAgostini.

Vivendi did not specify the size of the stake it is discussing buying, but sources said it was likely to be significant and that the French company will likely assess whether to make a full takeover attempt in the future.

Vivendi reported H1 2015 revenues of €5.1 billion (US$5.7 billion), an 8.3% increase year-on-year. EBITA profit was €516 million, a 13.4% increase on the previous year.