December 10, 2016 / 4:03 PM / a year ago

Vivendi says not part of potential Canal Plus-Orange talks

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s Vivendi denied on Saturday it was discussing a cross-ownership deal with telecoms operator Orange, insisting that any potential talks between the two groups were focused on its pay-TV unit Canal Plus.

A logo is seen over the main entrance of the entertainment-to-telecoms conglomerate Vivendi's headquarters in Paris April 8, 2015. French media conglomerate Vivendi is looking at a possible acquisition of pay-TV group Sky, as one of several options to expand the reach of its own TV group Canal Plus, three sources familiar with the matter said. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Earlier reports in French newsletter Lettre de l‘Expansion and newspaper Le Figaro had described the scenario of a cross-ownership deal between Orange and Vivendi.

“If talks are taking place, it’s between Orange and Canal Plus,” a Vivendi spokesman said. He added that potential cross-ownership deals between Orange, Vivendi and Telecom Italia, in which Vivendi holds a 24 percent stake, were not on the agenda.

A series of deals have recently been announced between large media and telecoms groups, as the industry bets on the convergence of TV content with and Internet and phone services to compete better against newcomers such as Netflix, Inc.

Orange Chief Executive Officer Stephane Richard said on Thursday that Orange would consider bidding for Vivendi’s wholly-owned Canal Plus if it came up for sale.

The former telecoms monopoly is keen on forming a closer alliance with Canal Plus, Richard added, without elaborating.

Talks between Orange and Canal Plus so far have concerned a potential acquisition by Orange of a stake in Vivendi’s pay-TV group, but no deal has been reached yet, according to two sources close to the matter.

An Orange spokeswoman declined to comment.

An alliance with Canal Plus would allow Orange to compete better against its French rival SFR Group, a subsidiary of telecoms and cable group Altice.

Altice said on Wednesday it had signed a strategic agreement with NBC Universal that provides exclusive distribution rights for the 13th Street and E! Entertainment TV channels.

SFR, whose media content also includes the English Premier League soccer, is betting on a combination of television content and mobile telecoms to set itself apart from competitors.

Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic; Writing by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Geert Victor De Clercq and David Evans

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