Vivendi Posts Huge Loss

All is not well in entertainment land. Of the music industry's Big Five, only Universal Music managed to report a profit last year. That was a curious development in view of parent company Vivendi Universal SA's recent report of a net loss for 2001 in the amount of 13.6 billion euros, or $15.63 billion. Vivendi is also the parent company of Universal Pictures, its film unit.

The posted loss was the largest in French corporate history, according to reports in the business press the first week of March. The loss was attributed to a 15.7 billion euro write-down of "goodwill," an accounting term referring to the intangible value of business relationships. "We have not destroyed value for our shareholders," Vivendi chairman Jean-Marie Messier said at a Paris press conference.

Messier emphasized that the write-downs were one-time events unlikely to affect his company's long-term performance. Even so, Vivendi will post further write-downs sometime this year, after a final changeover to American accounting procedures.

In 2000, Vivendi posted a profit of 2.3 billion euros ($2.64 billion) on revenue of 52.5 billion euros ($60.32 billion). Revenue increased by 9.3% in 2001, to 57.36 billion euros, or $65.9 billion. The company's net debt is estimated at 33.4 billion euros, or $38.39 billion.