Taylor Swift performs on stage during the Taylor Swift Reputation Stadium Tour at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on August 11, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.
John Shearer – TAS18 – Getty Images for TAS
The French media group Vivendi has won the support of shareholders for its planned spin-off of the crown jewel Universal Music Group.
Investors overwhelmingly backed the proposal, which would result in the world’s largest music label closing its Euronext Amsterdam listing at the end of September – during a shareholders’ meeting on Tuesday.
The proposal provides for the distribution of 60% of UMG’s share capital to the shareholders through the listing in Amsterdam.
The decisive votes came after billionaire William Ackman’s SPAC Pershing Square Tontine Holdings signed a purchase agreement to purchase 10% of UMG for around $ 4 billion, the companies said over the weekend. The deal gave UMG an enterprise value of 35 billion euros (41.55 billion US dollars) for 100% of its share capital.
A consortium led by the Chinese Titans Tencent Holdings already owns 20% of the shares in the group. UMG accounts for around three quarters of Vivendi’s profits.
Although the spin-off has secured investor support, criticism has come from activist hedge funds Artisan Partners and Bluebell, who claim that larger shareholders, including Vincent Bollore, are benefiting disproportionately from smaller investors. The French billionaire Bollore holds 30% of the voting rights in UMG.
Almost three quarters of the shareholders also voted in favor of Vivendi’s plan to buy back and retire up to 50% of the shares.
Matti Littunen, European media analyst at Bernstein, noted that some investors had reservations about the tax implications for smaller shareholders in the UMG spin-off, along with the question of why Vivendi isn’t spinning off a larger portion of the company and opting for a sale instead decides small portions to companies like Ackman’s SPAC.
“Why sell some of it for cash and stop distributing it to shareholders and let them figure out what to do with the proceeds?” he told CNBC’s Street Signs Europe on Tuesday.
“In general, after this deal, there is still a lot of suspicion about the capital allocation for Vivendi, so as mentioned many controversial aspects of this allocation.”