Vivendi in talks to buy USA Networks'
LONDON - French media group Vivendi Universal is in talks with USA Networks about buying the company's entertainment business, which could see USA Networks chairman Barry Diller take a senior role within the Franco-American group.
Vivendi chief executive Jean-Marie Messier confirmed that the companies have been in talks for several months. However, he denied claims that it could end up paying as much as £12.5bn for the assets, which includes the Sci-Fi Channel among other cable stations.
Vivendi already owns 42% of USA Networks, which is said to have a market capitalisation of £6.3bn. The entertainment operation comprises three divisions: USA Cable, Studios USA and USA Films. USA Cable includes the Sci-Fi Channel and is in the process of launching three new cable programme services -- Trio, Newsworld and Crime -- as part of its Emerging Networks division.
USA Entertainment is the business that Michael Jackson left the chief executive's job at Channel 4 in July to run.
Messier said: "We confirm that discussions have been ongoing for several months between Vivendi and USA Networks with a view to optimising synergies in the entertainment area.
"These talks at their current stage may or may not lead to a transaction."
USA Networks also owns Ticketmaster and the Home Shopping Network.
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