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Vivendi to Sell Utilities Stake

November 7, 2002

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PARIS (AP) _ Vivendi Universal plans to sell half its 40.4 percent stake in utilities unit Vivendi Environnement to raise badly needed cash, the parent company said Thursday.

Vivendi Universal said its board has signaled approval of the transaction, which could lead to the complete disposal of Vivendi Environnement shares.

Buyers of Vivendi Environnement shares will have the chance to buy the other half of Vivendi Universal’s stake by December 21, 2004, the company added.

The potential sale would be part of Vivendi’s plan to chip away at its massive debt by selling off $16 billion by the end of 2004.

Meanwhile, Vivendi Universal said it has sealed a final agreement to sell its U.S. publishing unit Houghton Mifflin to a consortium led by Thomas H. Lee and Bain Capital for $1.7 billion.

Houghton Mifflin is what remains of Vivendi Universal Publishing, after Vivendi sold the non-U.S. assets of the company to French media company Lagardere SCA for $1.25 billion.

Vivendi said that including the disposal of Vivendi Environnement, it expects to bring the tally of asset disposals to around $7 billion by the end of 2002.

Since the beginning of July, Vivendi has sold assets totaling $5.01 billion, including Italian digital television arm Telepiu, European publishing assets Vivendi Universal Publishing, encryption software editor Canal Plus Technologies, and Internet portal Vizzavi.

Vivendi Chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou, who joined the company in July, has been selling assets to restore confidence in the indebted media company.

Fourtou took over from Jean-Marie Messier after a frenetic acquisition binge left the French media company facing a serious shortage of cash.

American depositary shares of Vivendi Universal traded Thursday afternoon at $13.35, down 40 cents, or 3 percent, on the New York Stock Exchange.

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