Universal’s market debut is music to investors’ ears
Shares in world’s biggest music label soar on first day of trade in Amsterdam giving it a market value of €47bn
Amsterdam — Universal Music Group’s shares leapt more than a third in their stock market debut on Tuesday as investors bet that a boom in music streaming still has a long way to run.
The world’s biggest music label, which represents musicians and song catalogues from Billie Eilish to The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, saw its market value leap to €47bn in Europe’s biggest listing of the year.
The company was spun off by France’s Vivendi, which handed a 60% stake in Universal to its shareholders. Vivendi’s market value dropped by two thirds to about €12bn, according to Refinitiv Eikon data, as it refocuses on other media assets such as pay TV brand Canal+.
Big winners from the Amsterdam listing include US hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman and China’s Tencent, alongside Vivendi’s controlling shareholder Vincent Bollore, who are retaining large slices of Universal.
Universal chair and CEO Lucian Grainge will also get bonuses linked to the listing that could amount to as much as $400m.
Universal’s shares were trading at €24.97 by mid-session trading, up about 35% from their reference price of €18.50. Shares in Bollore, which holds 27% of Vivendi, were up 2.4%, while the Amsterdam-listed shares of Ackman’s Pershing were up 4%.
Universal’s strong debut is a vindication for Ackman, who was forced into an embarrassing U-turn after US regulators blocked his plans to invest into Universal via his special purpose acquisition company in July.
Ackman, whose grandfather was a songwriter, instead opted to take a 10% stake via his main Pershing Square hedge fund, which is now sitting on a paper gain of more than 30%.
Beatles to Bieber
Universal, whose other hit singers and catalogues include Justin Bieber and The Beatles, hopes to build on deals with advert-supported sites such as TikTok and YouTube as well as streaming services such as Spotify.
“I believe that we’re only at the beginning of the next wave of growth as music subscription and ad-supported consumption is scaling globally and has a long runaway ahead,” Grainge said.
His windfall from the listing comes on top of the €17.5m cash bonus he received in February after a Tencent-led consortium bought a 10% stake in Universal.
Part of Universal’s business derives from the rights attached to its huge catalogue, and it also collects royalties for the artists it represents across social media platforms.
The Covid-19 pandemic hit live concerts and Universal’s merchandising business, but ad-supported revenues have picked up after a blip.
Its flotation carries high stakes for Vivendi, which hopes in the longer run to rid itself of a conglomerate discount that it believes has weighed on its shares.
Vivendi said last week it was set to buy another stake in Lagardere, paving the way for a potential full takeover of the Paris Match magazine owner.
Universal’s revenue has increased for six consecutive years and is forecasting at least 10% this year.
The listing is the latest win for Euronext in Amsterdam, which has grown as a financial centre since the UK’s departure from the EU. Before Universal, Amsterdam had attracted a record 14 IPOs this year.
Separating from Universal deprives Vivendi of its most valuable asset. Vivendi said on Tuesday it would now own 10.13% of Universal’s shares.
The deal was handled by 17 banks that are expected to make a combined $60m-$65m in fees from advising Vivendi and Universal, with BNP Paribas and other lead advisers taking the largest share, according to Refinitiv estimates.
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