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Vivendi Universal, the media conglomerate, has put a $14 billion price tag on its entertainment assets in the US, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Citing "sources close to the negotiations" with bidders, the newspaper said that figure is "markedly higher" than the offers received to date. A Vivendi spokeswoman would not comment on the report, but it is known that the company has rejected at least two bids, one of them $11.5 billion from US film industry giant Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. Against that backdrop, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Comcast Corp., the largest cable-TV provider in the US, "has informed Vivendi of its interest" and "may be close" to joining the bidding. But if no suitor is willing to meet Vivendi's asking price, the company has indicated it will sell stock in its US assets through an initial public offering, the Journal reported. Vivendi's American properties include theme parks, the USA and SciFi cable-TV channels, and Universal movie studios.

Through a subsidiary, pharmaceutical giant and medical supplies provider Abbott Laboratories agreed to pay $600 million to settle federal and civil claims that some employees conspired to defraud Medicare and Medicaid. Last month, Abbott reserved $622 million to pay for the settlement on behalf of its Ross Products division of Columbus, Ohio, and took the charge to its second-quarter earnings. Two years ago, Abbott was a partner in a joint venture with Japan's Takeda Chemical Industries that paid an $875 million fine for improperly charging Medicare for an anticancer drug.

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