French media conglomerate Vivendi is selling control of its US games subsidiary Activision Blizzard for about $8.2 billion in a drive to focus its media interests and reduce debt, it said on Friday.
The deal, involving the online game "World of Warcraft", is Vivendi's second strategic strike within a week raising a total of about $14.0 billion (10.5 billion euros) which will reduce debt.
The group, which owns the Canal+ television business and Universal Music, said that it would sell more than 85.0 percent of its 61.1-percent holding in the firm which publishes online games "Call of Duty, "Guitar Hero" and "World of Warcraft".
The deal should be completed by the end of September and will be struck at a price of $13.60 per share, compared with a closing price of $15.18 at the close of trading in New York on Thursday.
Activision Blizzard will buy 429 million of its own shares for $5.8 billion.
Meanwhile, Vivendi will sell 172 million shares for $2.3 billion to investors led by executives at Activision Blizzard grouped in an entity called ASAC LP.
Once these deals are completed, Vivendi will retain a holding of 12.0 percent which will be frozen for 15 months.
Analysts at Citi finance house commented that the deal was "a positive catalyst despite the low price."The price of shares in Vivendi gained 2.82 percent to $16.43. The overall French market as measured by the CAC 40 index was up 0.83 percent in late morning trading.
The deal means that in the space of a week, Vivendi has reduced market doubts about its strategy announced a year ago to re-focus its activities.
On Tuesday the group sold its interest of 53.0 percent in Moroccan firm Maroc Telecom for 4.2 billion euros ($5.6 billion).
Sources in the company said: "This is a very big week for us. One can say that Vivendi does what it says."
Chief executive Jean Francois Dubos said in a statement that the business was making progress in re-directing its interests towards new phases of growth.
This would enable the group, which has interests in telecommunications and entertainment, to reduce by more than half its debt mountain of 13.2 million euros, sources in the firm said.
In principle, Activision Blizzard fits the new focus of Vivendi which is on media content, but sources in the company explained that the subsidiary depended on turning out "blockbuster" successes and was therefore inherently risky.
The source said: "We are not convinced that this can last with the arrival of new game consoles. In a addition there is no complementarity with our other activities using media content."
Vivendi had another option which was to use part of the cash reserves of the games unit, an amount of $4.6 billion, to pay an exceptional dividend, one source said.
Company sources, who declined to be named, also said: "The main chunk of the asset sales is now done. Now there is a telecom issue including the future of (French mobile phone unit) SFR which is being discussed."
SFR, which has been hit by new competition in the French mobile phone sector, still accounts for nearly 40 percent of group sales.
One option under consideration is to split off SFR from the parent company, taking with it most of the debt which it would pay with future cash flow.