France's Vivendi to Appeal $1 Billion U.S. Ruling in Liberty Media Case

4:24 AM PST 01/10/2013 by Georg Szalai

An analyst estimates that a judge's decision in the long-running litigation could boost the legal bill by about $260 million.

Vivendi said Thursday that it would appeal a New York judge's decision Wednesday that confirmed a $1 billion jury verdict in a long-running legal case, but increased the amount to be paid by Vivendi by adding interest on top.

An analyst estimated the interest would amount to an additional $260 million or so.

The New York ruling against the French media and telecom conglomerate came as the latest step in a lawsuit brought by John Malone's Liberty Media.

"Vivendi strongly believes that it did no wrong and intends to pursue its appeal to the fullest extent possible," the company said.

"This is not new, given the original verdict was issued in June 2012," UBS analyst Polo Tang said. "However, the court has also awarded interest on top of the damages that we estimate will be €200 million ($262 million)."

He added: "Although the incremental interest costs from the lawsuit are modest, we believe consensus [financial estimates for Vivendi] may not have fully factored in the Liberty Media damages."

Despite the possible added legal costs, Vivendi's stock was up slightly in mid-day trading in Paris.

The jury in the case had agreed with Liberty that Vivendi had inflated the value of its stock, which it used in 2001 to acquire from Liberty what was then known as USA Networks. It later emerged that Vivendi was in a liquidity crisis, which led its stock to fall. The judge calculated the damages, including interest starting from Dec. 2001.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @ggeorgszalai
 

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