In a statement released on Monday, hedge fund P. Schoenfeld Asset Management (PSAM) claims French media group Vivendi is making it too easy for chairman and largest shareholder Vincent Bolloré to increase his stake in the firm at “undervalued prices”.
Activist fund PSAM holds a 0.8% stake Vivendi, and is attempting to convince other shareholders to vote for two resolutions that would require Vivendi to increase returns to shareholders to 9 billion euros after earlier asset sales left the firm flush with cash.
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Statement from PSAM
“The Bollore Group very recently doubled its stake in Vivendi to approximately 10%…thus benefiting from Vivendi’s undervaluation and the absence of a detailed capital allocation plan,” PSAM said in its Monday statement, also highlighting it was “concerned about the investors’ “opportunistic purchases.”
PSAM also noted: “By not distributing adequate cash to shareholders and providing vague guidance about Vivendi’s acquisition plans, Mr. Bollore and Vivendi’s management board are asking investors to have blind faith in their plan for the company’s future.”
Statement from Vivendi
“Mr. Schoenfeld has been writing to us since 2013 urging us to break up the group,” a Vivendi spokesman said in response to PSAM. “The latest attack seems to be an attempt to destabilize Vivendi management.”
More on Vivendi
The pressure from the Peter M. Schoenfeld-controlled fund comes before a general shareholders meeting on April 17, when shareholders are to vote on the resolutions it has placed on the agenda.
Vivendi is advising shareholders to vote against the resolutions, arguing that the fund’s real goal is to break up Vivendi. PSAM has been lobbying for a higher dividend, and has also argued the firm should unlock value by selling its Universal Music Group.
Uncertainty over what Vivendi is planning to do with its multibillion euros in cash piling up following recent asset sales is the key issue.
Vivendi has sold multiple assets in the last few years, including its telecommunications and video games divisions. The company had net cash of 4.6 billion euros as of the end of December, and another 10 billion euros will be coming soon as earlier deals finalize.
Analysts note the one-time media conglomerate is down to just two media assets: the pay TV group Canal Plus and Universal Music Group.