Vivendi Blocks Activist Attempt to Access SFR Sale Documents

Apr 03, 2014 3:13 am ET

(Updates with share trading in penultimate paragraph.)

April 3 (Bloomberg) -- Vivendi SA, the French conglomerate in talks to sell its SFR phone business to billionaire Patrick Drahi’s Altice SA, said it blocked an attempt by a shareholder activist group to access sale documents.

Colette Neuville, who heads a group defending minority shareholder rights, requested that a bailiff enter Vivendi’s offices, the Paris-based company said in a statement yesterday. Neuville, calling the SFR sale process “opaque,” said the bailiff was meant to keep the documents for potential legal proceedings and her group will consider further action,

Vivendi, which also owns Universal Music Group and Canal+, last month picked Altice over a competing bid from construction and telecommunications group Bouygues SA for talks to sell SFR, France’s second-largest phone company.

Vivendi said it will fight Neuville’s attempt to obtain the documents: “Vivendi’s lawyers have decided to oppose this intrusion and will apply to a judge for a summary judgment.”

Neuville said Vivendi had rejected her March 20 request that it publish details of both offers and explain why it started exclusive talks with Drahi. Her demand that shareholders vote on the SFR sale at a meeting was also turned down, according to her statement.

ADAM, or the Association de Defense des Actionaires Minoritaires, represents 1.5 percent to 2 percent of Vivendi shareholders, according to Neuville.

Adviser Demand

Vivendi board members “shouldn’t make a hasty decision on the sale of the group’s main asset,” Neuville said in a phone interview. “They should at least get an independent adviser. There’s very little transparency, so one wonders whether there’s something to hide.”

Shareholders may prefer the initial spinoff plan Vivendi proposed for SFR, she said.

Altice offered 11.75 billion euros ($16.2 billion) in cash plus 32 percent of the entity created by combining its Numericable Group with SFR.

Bouygues said yesterday its March 12 bid, comprising 11.3 billion euros in cash and a 43 percent stake in the entity created from a merger of SFR with Bouygues Telecom, as well as a subsequently revised proposal giving Vivendi 13.15 billion euros in cash and a 21.5 percent stake in the new company, are both valid through April 25.

A three-week exclusivity period for Vivendi and Altice to reach an agreement expires on April 4.

Vivendi rose 0.3 percent to 20.24 euros at 9:10 a.m. in Paris, Numericable fell 0.2 percent, while Bouygues dropped 0.7 percent. Altice was little changed in Amsterdam.

The French market regulator said on March 28 that it had asked Vivendi, Bouygues and Altice to provide more information, and the companies may face sanctions if they don’t abide by stock market rules on disclosure.