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Thomson buys control of Canal+ Technologies

Tue, 09/24/2002 - 8:00pm
Susan Rush

Thomson Multimedia went shopping for some technology to add to its portfolio and has come home with Canal+ Technologies.

As part of the all-cash deal, Thomson will acquire Canal+ Group's 89 percent stake in the middleware and conditional access provider for $186 million in cash. Prior to the deal, Thomson owned a 3.19 percent stake in the company. Other minority stake holders include Sony Corp.(3.2 percent), Sogecable SA (3.2 percent) and Sun Microsystems (1.4 percent).

Thomson says it pursued the controlling interest in Canal+ Technologies for its experience in the conditional access and interactive software markets. Canal+ Technologies' portfolio consists of MediaGuard and MediaHighway. MediaGuard, a conditional access system, is designed to enable digital television operators to deliver encrypted TV channels on a fully secured platform. The MediaHighway middleware enables the deployment of advanced interactive TV applications such as electronic program guides, pay-per-view and home banking. Canal+ software solutions are deployed in more than 14 million set-top boxes worldwide.

Canal+ Group is a subsidiary of Vivendi Universal, which had been expected to start selling off some non-core assets to pay down its $33 billion debt load in hopes of returning to profitability.

Canal+ Technologies sees the acquisition as a positive step. "Thomson's backing strengthens Canal+ Technologies' position in the iTV marketplace. Through this transaction we intend to play an active role in industry consolidation, thus boosting the deployment of iTV worldwide," Canal+ Technologies said in a prepared statement.

The deal, which has been approved by both companies' boards, is subject to certain regulatory and other customary closing conditions. Once the transaction closes, Canal+ Technologies' operating units will be managed within the Thomson New Media Services division. Canal+ Technologies has 644 employees worldwide: 562 in Paris, 48 in the U.S., 27 in the U.K. and 7 in China.

The news of the acquisition gave Thomson's stock a shot in the arm. Shares were up 50 cents to $16.16 as of 10:57 a.m. EDT.

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