Games are seen as smart play

Activision Blizzard parent Vivendi cites value of the biz in tough times

Vivendi is optimistic that its video game business can hold up in a recession, CFO Philippe Capron said Thursday after the company's latest earnings report.

He also said that the conglomerate hasn't made a final decision about whether to keep or sell its 20% stake in NBC Universal, which is majority-owned by General Electric. Every year, Vivendi has a window of opportunity that ends in December to sell its stake.

Asked about momentum at recently created gaming arm Activision Blizzard, Capron said, "Video games do well in a recession because they are the cheapest form of entertainment."

He pointed out games' high value when dividing hours played by cost. The 100 hours per month average playing time for the $15 online game "World of Warcraft," which has a new expansion pack out, is a great value, the exec said. "(Gaming is) much less exposed than most other businesses" to a weak economy, even though a lapse could darken his outlook, he said.

Vivendi reported a third-quarter adjusted profit that dropped 13% to €625 million ($783 million) on €189 million in costs from the acquisitions of Activision and Neuf Cegetel, a mobile virtual network operator. Including a €2.32 billion gain thanks to the Activision deal, profit multiplied to €2.76 billion ($3.32 billion) from €578 million in the year-ago period.

Revenue rose 20% to €6.51 billion ($8.53 billion), boosted in part by acquisitions.

At constant currency rates, revenue and bottom line improved at Universal Music Group and pay TV arm Canal+ Group.

Vivendi reiterated its full-year forecast for an adjusted profit gain similar to the 8.3% increase last year, when excluding the effect of acquisitions. (partialdiff)