Global Asset Capital wins Viventures battle

Vivendi Universal has chosen US venture capital firm Global Asset Capital to take over its struggling Viventures unit.

After several months of negotiations, French media group Vivendi Universal has ceded control of its global venture capital investment unit Viventures to a consortium of US investors.


California-based Global Asset Capital, backed by US private equity group Hamilton Lane Advisors, has acquired Viventures Partners, the firm responsible for managing the Viventures I and II funds. A spokesperson for Viventures this morning confirmed the decision, but declined to reveal details about price and other participants in the bidding process.


According to the Financial Times newspaper, Global Asset Capital’s bid is worth E9m and enables LPs in Viventures II to abandon 25 per cent of their future commitments. The paper reports that GAC intends to raise a E100m fund, to co-invest alongside Viventures II.


Reports of a takeover of the Viventures management company emerged early this year when a group of the firm’s limited partners, led by Compagnie Nationale à Portefeuille, the investment company of Belgian investor Albert Frère, SGAM and several Singapore-based investors, called for a change in ownership following VU’s decision last year to cease making commitments to Viventures II.


Viventures II closed with commitments totalling E638m in January 2001, although that total was later scaled back to E500m in June 2002. Third party investors in the fund include Goldman Sachs, DLJ, SG Asset Management, Siemens Venture Capital, British Telecom, Cisco Systems and Mannesmann. The deal provides Hamilton Lane with a re-entry into the French market following the split in its alliance with Crédit Lyonnais Private Equity last year.


Viventures Partners was set up to invest across Europe, the US and Asia from offices in Paris, London, San Francisco and Singapore. The firm invested in telecom, optical components and systems, application software and enabling technologies for wireless and Internet infrastructure.


The first task for Global Asset Capital will be to shore up the firm’s management team. French business daily L’Agefi reports that Viventures president Jean-Pascal Tranié is considering his position at the firm, adding to the departure of director Benoist Grossmann, who left to join AGF Private Equity in December.