Vivendi to pay Liberty Media $775 mn to settle dispute

26th February 2016, Comments 0 comments

French media group Vivendi said Friday it would pay $775 million (700 million euros) to settle a lawsuit with US conglomerate Liberty Media dating from the 2001 purchase of a stake in USA Networks.

The French firm was accused of having made misleading statements about its finances, and appealed earlier verdicts from 2012 and 2013.

Liberty Media had argued "breach of contract and fraud" by Vivendi, which said the payment was more than covered by a provision of 945 million euros it had set aside ahead of Friday's ruling.

The US company had ended up as a Vivendi shareholder in 2001 because of its interest in USA Networks, a broadcaster bought by the French firm.

Liberty sued in 2003, contending the shares used in the acquisition were overvalued because of fraudulent statements by Vivendi about its financial health as the firm underwent massive expansion under former chief Jean-Marie Messier, who was ousted in 2002.

Vivendi said in a statement Friday that "this settlement should not be construed as a concession by Vivendi of the validity of any of Liberty Media's claims, or as an admission of any wrongdoing by Vivendi.

"Rather, despite the jury's verdict, Vivendi continues to maintain that it did not commit any wrongdoing."

Liberty Media in 2001 accepted 37 million Vivendi shares priced at 50 dollars, in a deal which made the US firm the second largest shareholder in Vivendi.

The transaction was finalised in May 2002, days after Moody's downgraded Vivendi's credit rating because of its hefty debt.

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© 2016 AFP

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