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Vivendi fights on against Liberty damages award

by Paul Whitfield  |  Published January 10, 2013 at 10:29 AM
France's Vivendi SA said Thursday, Jan. 10, it will appeal a New York court's ruling that it should pay €765 million ($1 billion), plus interest backdated to December 2001, to Liberty Media Corp.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin upheld the damages payment, which was awarded in June following a jury trial. She ruled that Vivendi should pay interest on the award equivalent to the rate on one-year government debt over the same period, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

The damages relate to Vivendi's $10.3 billion acquisition of USA Networks Inc., which included the exchange of Liberty Media's stake in the target for 37.4 million shares in Vivendi. Those shares were worth about €2.1 billion when the deal was struck in December 2001, but had slumped to €1.3 billion by the time the deal closed in May 2002.

Liberty Media, of Denver, filed its claim against Vivendi in 2003, alleging that executives at the Paris-based media and telecommunications conglomerate had artificially inflated their company's share price ahead of the deal by making misleading statements about the company's financial health and by using company funds to buy back shares.

Despite losing the case twice, Vivendi said Thursday that it "strongly believes that it did no wrong and intends to pursue its appeal to the fullest extent possible."

Vivendi is already appealing a 2010 decision to award damages to shareholders. The ruling in that case, which is separate from Liberty Media's claim, found that Vivendi had made misleading statements from late 2000 to early 2002 and that the statements inflated its share price by between €0.15 and €11.

Vivendi is in the midst of a strategic review that is expected to lead to the sale of at least some of its telecommunications assets, possibly including its Brazilian unit GVT, its 53% stake in North African operation Maroc Telecom SA, and all or part of its French unit SFR.

Vivendi shares traded Thursday at €16.60, marginally lower than their Wednesday close.

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Tags: GVT | Judge Shira Scheindlin | Liberty Media Corp. | Maroc Telecom SA | SFR | USA Networks Inc. | Vivendi SA

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Paul Whitfield

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