Vivendi Could Decide on NBCU Stake in 2-3 Weeks

BARCELONA, Nov 20 (Reuters) – France’s Vivendi (VIV.PA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) kept the owners of NBC Universal guessing on Thursday over what it plans to do with a 20 percent stake in the U.S. entertainment giant as the latest deadline approaches for a possible sale.

Europe’s largest entertainment group has an option every November until 2016 to either sell its stake in NBCU to its majority owner, U.S. conglomerate General Electric (GE.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), or sell it by an initial public offering.

“I have already said that we don’t consider ourselves to be long-term investors of NBC Universal,” Vivendi Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy said.

He expected a decision in the next two to three weeks.

There has been speculation that GE might also sell its NBCU stake, but it has repeatedly denied such plans.

At a media conference, Levy remained tight-lipped on speculation Vivendi was looking to buy Digital Plus, the pay-TV platform being sold by Spanish group Prisa (PRS.MC: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

“We do not want to comment on the process. We did not say we were interested, we did not say we were not,” he told the Morgan Stanley Annual Technology, Media and Telecoms Conference in Barcelona.

Shares in Vivendi, which owns a 56 percent stake in France’s second-largest wireless operator SFR, was down 0.8 percent at 19.95 euros at 0952 GMT, while the DJ media index was down 2.28 percent. Britain’s Vodafone (VOD.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) owns the rest of SFR.

Commenting on possible plans by the French government to hold a new auction in 2009 to sell a fourth 3G mobile telephone licence, Levy said he expected SFR to be well placed to resist competition.

“We will bear up quite well against a fourth entrant. It will probably hurt us no more than anybody else,” he said.

“There is very limited risk that we will indeed have a fourth operator.”

The other two 3G players are France Telecom’s (FTE.PA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) Orange, and Bouygues SA’s (BOUY.PA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) Bouygues Telecom.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Cyril Altmeyer, writing by Caroline Jacobs, editing by Will Waterman)