Vivendi works with banks toward long-term refinancing plan, secures short-term loan

Wednesday, July 10th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PARIS (AP) _ French media giant Vivendi Universal said it is working with banks to come up with a refinancing plan for the long term, and confirmed it has secured a loan to ease a short-term cash crunch.

Confirming news reports, Vivendi said Wednesday it has obtained a $994.5 million unsecured credit line.

More negotiations are expected for a second loan of between $2.47 billion and $2.97 billion, Le Figaro newspaper reported Monday.

Vivendi Universal's new chairman and chief executive, Jean-Rene Fourtou, said in a statement that the deal was ``concrete evidence of the continued support and confidence of our banks as we work to restore stability and strength to the group's finances.''

On his appointment last week, Fourtou acknowledged the company was facing a short-term cash crunch and promised to find a solution within two weeks. Vivendi has to pay back $1.79 billion by the end of the month.

Vivendi said it secured the loan from ``a group of international banks'' but did not name them. Le Figaro said the banks were BNP Paribas SA, Societe Generale SA, Deutsche Bank AG, Credit Lyonnais SA, Credit Suisse First Boston and Citigroup Inc.

Meanwhile, France's market watchdog announced Tuesday that it is investigating financial information provided by Vivendi since January 2001 and that its investigators have started to examine documents at the company's premises.

Michel Prada, chairman of the Commission for Stock Exchange Operations, told France-2 television that the decision to investigate was ``quite normal.'' He did not give details but said the group carries out 90 such investigations every year to verify the ``pertinence'' and ``coherence'' of information that companies provide.

The investigation follows a newspaper report last week that Vivendi sought unsuccessfully to inflate its 2001 accounts by $1.47 billion following its sale of a stake in British pay television operator British Sky Broadcasting.