--France's Vivendi will move to formal phase of GVT sale process soon, says a person familiar with the deal
--Vivendi expected to make a decision on GVT future by end of the first quarter 2013, the person says
--If a suitable buyer can't be found, Vivendi may instead sell shares in GVT, two people say
By Luciana Magalhaes
SAO PAULO--French telecom and media group Vivendi SA (>> VIVENDI) will soon send invitations to possible bidders for its Brazilian phone unit GVT, as the sale process moves into a more formal stage, said a person familiar with the situation.
A number of companies have approached Vivendi seeking information on GVT, including U.S. satellite-television provider DirecTV (>> DIRECTV), said the person. But no bids have been made for GVT, the person said.
Vivendi is expected to make a decision probably by the end of the first quarter of 2013, said the same person.
If the group can't find a viable suitor for GVT, other alternatives will be considered, including an initial public offering, according to two people.
A spokeswoman for Vivendi said it doesn't comment on market speculation while DirecTV didn't respond to a request for comment.
Vivendi has hired Rothschild and Deutsche Bank AG to conduct the process, according to the two people. Both banks declined to comment for this article.
The sale process is still in the early stages and a formal price for GVT hasn't yet been set, said one of the people.
The second person said GVT's sale could fetch between $7 billion to $8 billion. In July, Reuters reported that GVT could be valued at up to 8.5 billion euros, citing sources familiar with the deal.
The French group has decided to sell the Brazilian unit "because it's now going back to its original focus," said the person.
Vivendi bought GVT in 2009 for after a bidding battle with Spain's Telefonica. At the end of August the Paris-based company said it was in no rush to sell assets, after a better than expected second-quarter result.
Vivendi has been under pressure since the beginning of March, when a profit warning at its French telecommunications unit SFR prompted a slide in the company's stock to its lowest levels in years. After long pushing the idea that the company could find synergies between its entertainment and telecommunications assets, Vivendi's board began exploring asset sales and in late June pushed out Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy.
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