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Vivendi Profits Rise On Acti-Blizz Games Success: Call Of Duty ‘Biggest Entertainment Launch Ever’

Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 grossed more than $300 million in sales in its first 24 hours just in the US and the UK, making it not just the biggest video game launch of the year, but the biggest entertainment launch, in any medium, ever. That most hyperbolic of claims is from Philippe Capron, CFO of Activision (NSDQ: ATVI) Blizzard’s parent company Vivendi (EPA: VIV) speaking on the analysts’ call to accompany its Q3 and year to date earnings.

Despite Vivendi’s other consumer media business Universal Music Group faring less well as it struggles with changing business models and the effects of piracy, for the nine months to 30 September, the company made 17.2 percent better profits of €3.58 billion (£3.23 billion; $5.36 billion) on revenue 8.3 percent higher year on year at €19.52 billion (£17.6 billion; $29.2 billion), at constant currencies.

NBCU no comment: The first thing Capron said on the analysts’ call was that the company “is not at liberty” to comment on reports (like this one from that the company is about to divest its 20 percent stake in US broadcaster NBCU. Nor would he comment on reports that its planned acquisition of Brazilian telco GVT is being called off because of a rival bid from Telefonica.

Acti-Bliz: For the nine month period before the Call of Duty launch, the games JV — in which Vivendi now owns a 57 percent stake — made revenues 98 percent higher year on year at €1.98 billion (£1.79 billion; $2.97 billion) and EBITDA of €406 million (£367 million; $608 million), 11 times more than the then newly formed company returned in the same period last year.

Universal Music Group: Still the world’s biggest major label, UMG suffered what Capron called a “signficant decrease in revenues” and was down 8.4 percent at constant currencies to €2.97 billion (£2.68 billion; $4.45 billion) while profits plummeted by more than a third to €269 million (£243 million; $403 million) for the year to October. Improvements in merchandise and and digital sales weren’t enough to offset licensing revenue declines — but Capron added that UMG’s year-end figures will look better thanks to some big releases in the run up to Christmas. Third quarter revenue of €58 million was 62 percent down year on year.

SFR: France’s second-largest mobile provider, majority owned by Vivendi and its most profitable segment, added 573,000 net new pre-paid and 831,000 post-pay customers in the first nine months of the year. That helped it make 9.6 percent higher revenues of €9.32 billion (£8.4 billion; $13.9 billion). Broadband and fixed line revenue rose 3.3 percent to €2.79 million (£2.52; $5.18 million).

Canal: Vivendi’s TV division made revenues 1.1 percent higher at €3.36 million (£3 million; $5 million) while EBITDA rose 21.4 percent year on year to €754 million (£681.4 million; $1.1 billion). Canal added 117,000 customers in the year to September 30 and since the start of the year almost 350,000 Canal+ analogue subscribers were transferred to digital.

Q3 earnings: For the three months to September 30, the company made profits 4.7 percent higher than Q308 at €1.34 billion (£1.2 billion; $2 billion), on revenues of €6.34 billion (£5.7 billion; $9.4 billion), a 3.1 percent decline on 2008.

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