Vivendi likes recession-proof games<br />

Exec notes inexpensiveness of hours played

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

He also said 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 a 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, though a lapse could darken his outlook, he said.

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

Revenue rose 20% to 6.51 billion euros ($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.

Capron also reaffirmed that the company's balance sheet remains in good health because it doesn't face significant debt repayments until 2012. Without naming takeover targets, he added Vivendi has 1 billion-2 billion euros available for possible deals.

UMG has a "promising" release schedule during the current fourth quarter and continues to emphasize digital growth and cost-reduction opportunities, Capron said.