LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -
Vivendi Chief Executive Jean-Rene Fourtou said on Tuesday he expected Vivendi to keep both Universal Music and Vivendi Universal Games, which makes PC action titles such as "Diablo" and "Warcraft" and games like "The Hulk" based on licenses from movies produced by corporate sibling Universal Studios.
But Vivendi, which has been looking at selling or spinning off the games unit since last summer, is unlikely to keep the unit permanently, according to Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities who follows the industry.
"There's no chance.
Why would they keep it? It doesn't fit (with) anything," he said.
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A source familiar with the unit agreed Fourtou's stated plans did not rule out a future sale if conditions were right.
"Dial back the clock to when he sold (book publisher) Houghton Mifflin. There was lots of specific communications that Houghton Mifflin was not for sale ...
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and then two weeks later they announced the sale," the source said.
A spokeswoman for VU Games declined to comment on the division's status.
Last summer, Fourtou said Vivendi wanted to "monetize" the game unit somehow.
That prompted speculation that either an initial public offering or a sale were in the works.
At one point, Vivendi was thought to be seeking nearly $2 billion for the unit, more than twice its annual revenue.
Earlier this year, it seemed clear the unit would be sold. In May, company sources said a sale was expected to be announced by the end of summer.
But banking and entertainment-industry sources said the auction process bogged down, with bidders offering less than the $800 million or more that Vivendi was asking at the time.
"We've been on and off the table so many times, I don't know realistically what they're going to do with us," the source said. "We're not on top of the priority list."
Some game software industry executives have openly or privately said they would be most interested in acquiring only VU Games' PC games division, Blizzard.
"My bet is that the whole games division is not going to be bought by anybody," said Pachter.
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"The Blizzard assets are worth at least one times' sales, if not more, where the rest of the assets are not."
One company that had shown an interest in the entire unit was Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.
"We were certainly hoping that it would be sold at a price which made a lot of sense to the buyer," Chief Executive Jeff Lapin told Reuters on Wednesday after Take-Two posted strong quarterly results and raised its guidance for the year.
"At one point we clearly were looking at that deal, or at least sniffing around," Lapin said.
Other prominent publishing names closely linked with the VU Games auction in past include Microsoft Corp., Electronic Arts Inc. and Activision Inc., though all have declined comment on bids for the unit.