Vivendi sees limited effect from COVID-19, but wobbles could lie ahead

Vivendi reported a 4.4% year-on-year increase in revenue to €3.87 billion (US$4.2 billion) for the first quarter of 2020, and it said the COVID-19 pandemic has so far had a limited impact on its business.

However, the France-based media group warned that it is impossible to predict at this stage the degree to which the pandemic will impact revenue this year. Some of the group's smaller businesses, such as Havas Group, Editis and Vivendi Village, already recorded lower revenue in March, and they are expected to be further affected in the second quarter of the year.

Vivendi was largely propped up by Universal Music Group in the first quarter, which increased revenue by almost 13% to €1.77 billion ($1.92 billion). However, Canal+ recorded an increase of only 1% to €1.37 billion ($1.48 billion), while revenue at advertising agency Havas fell by 3.3% on an organic basis to €524 million ($569 million). Revenue at publishing group Editis fell by 14.3% to €116 million ($126 million), and the digital, ticketing and live entertainment group Vivendi Village recorded a 3.4% decline to €23 million ($24.9 million).

Vivendi, which also owns a 24% stake in Telecom Italia (TIM), pointed out that it is reasonably well placed to weather the storm, with net debt at a relatively manageable level of €2.4 billion ($2.6 billion). The group has just boosted its coffers through the sale of a 10% stake in Universal to a consortium led by Chinese online giant Tencent, raising around €2.8 billion ($3.04 billion).

Vivendi indicated that its businesses are all monitoring the situation closely. The impact of COVID-19 is impossible to predict at this stage, but the group said it is confident in the resilience of its main businesses. As an indication of the extraordinary measures businesses are being forced to take at this time, Canal+ agreed to postpone the launch of the Disney+ video streaming service from March 24 to April 7 "due to the risk of network saturation".

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— Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

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