By Mathieu Rosemain
PARIS (Reuters) - Vivendi plans to list its most-prized asset, Universal Music Group, in 2022, after strong results by the world's biggest music label, the French media group said on Tuesday.
The plan to list Universal represents the next milestone in a two-year process launched by Vivendi's top investor Vincent Bollore to cash in on the music industry's revival.
The Paris-based company had previously signalled it could list Universal, home to artists Taylor Swift, Drake and Lady Gaga, before 2023.
Vivendi said that such an initial public offering (IPO) would be used to pay back debt and finance share buybacks programs and acquisitions.
"We're indeed inclined to anticipate what was (an) initial plan (for the Universal IPO)," Chief Executive Officer Arnaud de Puyfontaine said on a call with reporters.
A consortium led by China's tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd bought 10% of Universal last December in a deal that valued it at 30 billion euros.
The same consortium has the option to buy a further 10% of Universal's share capital up to mid-January 2021.
The group also said third-quarter sales grew by 0.7% at constant exchange rates to about 4 billion euros ($4.73 billion), led by a 6.1% increase of revenues at Universal, its biggest division.
This was above a market consensus compiled by the company, which predicted a decline in sales between 1% and 2% for the group, Chief Financial Officer Hervé Philippe said.
Third quarter sales at Vivendi's second-biggest business, pay-TV Canal Plus, edged up by 0.9%, helped by strong revenue growth from international operations.
In contrast, Vivendi's Havas advertising division reported a fall in underlying sales of more than 10% in the third-quarter. The group did not provide a full-year forecast.
(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Edmund Blair and Jane Merriman)