France’s Bollore poised to own $7 bln worth of Universal after listing

Vincent Bollore is set to own $7 billion worth of Universal Music Group shares after it floats next week, raising questions about how the French tycoon could use this new source of cash as Universal’s parent Vivendi (VIV.PA) charts a new course.

Bollore, the top investor in Vivendi who spearheaded the spin-off of the world’s biggest music label with artists such as Lady Gaga and the Rolling Stones, is set to be one of the deal’s biggest winners, the prospectus issued on Tuesday showed.

Listing Universal, with an estimated equity value of 33 billion euros ($39 billion), involves distributing 60% of its shares to Vivendi’s shareholders. Bollore is set to receive about 18%, worth about 5.9 billion euros ($7 billion).

“The question next is what he will do with his share,” a source familiar with the transaction said. “The cash that he will get from this, he could deploy it in some other way.”

Universal’s listing, Europe’s biggest so far this year, drew international attention after Vivendi sold 20% of the division to a group led by Chinese tech giant Tencent (0700.HK) and 10% to U.S. billionaire Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square.

Vivendi, now part of Bollore’s family-run empire, has invested in a range of companies, including media and publishing group Lagardere and Telecom Italia.

Separating Universal from Vivendi will deprive the Paris-based group of its most valuable asset and is likely to pushed down the share price of it parent after the spin-off.

The media group expects its shares to trade at a lower price after Universal’s shares start trading on Sept. 21 on Euronext’s Amsterdam stock exchange, Universal said in the prospectus.

For Bollore and Vivendi, Universal’s spin-off aims to extract the most value from its prized asset as streaming revenues help the music industry rebound from a downturn.

Universal, whose other hit singers include Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, sees itself as indispensable for artists seeking to collect royalties in far-flung places and on social media, an impossible task even for major stars, let alone smaller ones.

In the 2000s, artists and record labels lost sales to piracy of digital music and a shrinking market for physical media such as CDs. Their fortunes turned in the mid-2010s as subscription services led by Spotify helped restore royalty revenue.

In addition, the explosion of music on ad-supported social media platforms such as YouTube and TikTok has started to benefit record labels as they strike deals for a share of ad revenue on “user-generated” content that includes music clips.

Universal has registered six consecutive years of sales growth, reporting 1.49 billion euros in core earnings in 2020 on 7.43 billion euros in sales.