Vodafone buys Vizzavi stake from Vivendi

Debt-laden conglomerate Vivendi Universal has sold its 50% share of mobile content provider Vizzavi to its partner, Vodafone...

Debt-laden conglomerate Vivendi Universal has sold its 50% share of mobile content provider Vizzavi to its partner, Vodafone Group.

Vodafone paid Vivendi £90.64m in cash for its share of the joint venture, which was set up in May 2000.

Vizzavi will take a slice of the airtime revenue network operators receive when users access its services, and a greater share of the revenue from premium content such as ring tones and logos.

The London company had been set up to offer content services over three platforms: the Internet, television and mobile phones, but its 800 employees now concentrate on delivering services to 6.3 million mobile phone, PC and PDA users.

Vodafone will continue to operate Vizzavi as the sole owner of the company. The mobile services portal is set play an "important" part in the launch of Vodafone's new consumer service, Vodafone Live!, later this year.

The cash from Vizzavi is much needed by the French-American Vivendi, which has been suffering from heavy financial losses and a net debt of about £22.23bn.

Vivendi's new chairman and chief executive officer, Jean-René Fourtou, said earlier this month that Vivendi planned to sell some business units to reduce its debt by £6.35bn.

Vivendi owns 44% of France's biggest private telecom operator, Groupe Cégétel, which in turn controls mobile operator Société Française du Radiotéléphone (SFR).

Vodafone owns 20% of SFR and would like to take full ownership, a source claimed, although Fourtou and Vivendi have given no indication of whether SFR or Groupe Cégétel would be put on the block.

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