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Vivendi Universal shines
July 23, 2001: 4:01 a.m. ET

Europe's No. 2 media company benefits from telecoms, film earnings
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LONDON (CNN) - Europe's No. 2 media company Vivendi Universal said on Tuesday second-quarter earnings jumped 53 percent, boosted by films and telecoms.

Vivendi, which owns businesses such as Universal Pictures and pay-TV channel Canal Plus, said earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose to a better-than-expected graphic1.37 billion ($1.18 billion) from graphic894 million a year ago.

Vivendi Universal formally became a world-class media company last December through the three-way merger of water-and-telecom company Vivendi, its pay-TV subsidiary Canal Plus and the media assets of Canada's Seagram.

The results to June 30 "confirm the robustness of our businesses, with limited exposure to advertising," said Chief Executive Jean-Marie Messier, who added that the company had benefited from the fast progress of the merger and a reorganization.

Revenues rose 14 percent to graphic6.59 billion from graphic5.78 billion in the second quarter last year on a comparable basis assuming the merger had already taken place.

Vivendi's profits were boosted by its French mobile phone business SFR, which saw Ebitda earnings rise by about 70 percent to graphic703 million from graphic414 million in the same period a year ago.

SFR's churn rate, or turnover of customers, was maintained at a level of 2 percent, the company said.

Universal Pictures was the other section of the business to shine as media and film earnings rose to graphic314 million in the quarter from graphic171 a year ago on the same comparable basis, Vivendi said.

The Mummy Returns has exceeded $400 million in worldwide box-office receipts and The Fast and the Furious has grossed approximately $125 million in North American box-office receipts since its release in late June.

Media giants such as Vivendi are maximizing profits with tie-ins from films that run across the whole company.

"The success of our sequal film The Mummy Returns was extended across our businesses as we created a soundtrack, an interactive game, a book, a theme park experience, a TV series, consumer products and a spin-off film, The Scorpion King," said CEO Messier.

Jurassic Park III , Universal's main summer release, also had a very strong opening in North America over the past five days, with an estimated $80 million in box-office receipts, the company said.

Vivendi said the music market was weak, but its Universal Music Group still managed an 17 percent increase in revenue to graphic271 million in the quarter from graphic232 in the same quarter a year ago.

The performance was dimmed as the 2000 quarter had particularly benefited from hits by Eminem and a Bon Jovi album, the company said.

Canal Plus, Europe's largest pay-TV service, posted 26 percent growth in earnings to graphic139 million in the quarter and also reported a 30 percent increase in its digital subscriber base over 12 months to 5.8 million.

Vivendi Universal (PEX) shares rose almost 4 percent in Paris to graphic62.15 after the results were released. graphic