Vivendi chairman Vincent Bolloré has set his sights on the acquisition of Canal+ rival beIN Sport France, with talks underway, according to French daily Libération, citing unnamed sources.
According to the paper, Vivendi is considering two options: an exclusive distribution agreement that would give it the right to distribute beIN Sport France to the exclusion of rival operators; and an outright purchase, with the latter being the preferred choice.
An all-share deal could involve the Qatar-owned group taking a stake in Canal+ of around 8%, based on investment bank Nataxis’ recent valuation of beIN Sport France at around €500 million. Alternatively, beIN Sport Group could take a stake in Vivendi itself. Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund already has a holding of around 2% in the media group. Such a deal could also give Vivendi an opening to develop a wider international presence through a partnership with Al Jazeera and BeIN Media Group.
Libération cited an unnamed source close to the management of Canal+ as saying that focusing on competing with beIN Group made little sense given the wider challenges facing Canal+, which include a sharp decline in its French subscriber base, the growing cost of sports and drama rights and competition from OTT players including Netflix.
The Qataris are also believed to be under some pressure, with a sharp drop in the value of the Gulf state’s sovereign wealth fund’s holdings since the middle of last year, including its interest in troubled car manufacturer Volkswagen, alongside the wider impact of the continuing slide in the price of oil. Al Jazeera was recently forced to close down its US channel after it became clear that the business case for the venture was unsustainable.
According to Libération, Vivendi could enlist the help of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is said to be close to the Qatari Emir, as a go-between to help take negotiations forward.