Le Legal Action

Faced with the prospect of losing its telecom jewel Cegetel (see Vodafone Lays One Hand on SFR), financially troubled French conglomerate Vivendi Universal has taken the only mature and sensible course of action. It has decided to sue everyone in the whole world. So expect your summons shortly.

Well, OK, not everyone -- we made that up. But it has decided that a particularly hungry looking bunch of lawyers are in need of some lucrative work, and it has decided to sue all of its fellow Cegetel shareholders: Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), British Telecommunications plc (BT) (NYSE: BTY; London: BTA), and SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC). Why the legal action? It wants another 30 days to hunt down the back of the sofa for any loose change that may have slipped out of its terribly trendy Gallic slacks. If it can, it may just muster enough money to outbid Vodafone and take total control of Cegetel and its mobile operator offshoot, SFR.

Under current conditions it has until November 10 to trump Vodafone's bids for the Cegetel stakes owned by BT and SBC.

Vivendi claims Vodafone breached a shareholder agreement that investors looking to buy into Cegetel must send letters of intent, which would then be followed by 30 days of due diligence. After that period, there should then be an additional 20 days during which Vivendi could exercise its pre-emptive right to trump any bids.

A French court is set to decide on Monday whether Vivendi has a case or not. In the meantime, this reporter is thinking of suing his wife and children in the hope of gaining greater access to his cable TV remote unit so he can watch more sports on the weekend. Yeah, that'll show 'em!

— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung
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