Vivendi SA is in preliminary talks to sell a 10% stake in Universal Music Group to China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd., a deal that would value the world’s biggest music business at 30 billion euros ($33.6 billion). The French company’s shares rose as much as 9.1%.
Tencent can decide to double the stake under the same terms for a year and the two companies are considering ways to cooperate on strategy, Vivendi said in a statement on Tuesday.
The French media company’s efforts to sell up to half of its biggest division appeared to be flagging in recent months as potential private equity investors balked at the terms, according to people familiar with the matter.
The discussions with the Chinese media and technology company put the process back on track and are likely to stir interest from other potential strategic partners.
Tencent could bring Universal Music closer to consumers in Asian markets that are relatively underserved by the world’s major music labels. Vivendi said it hopes the Chinese company will help it to promote Universal’s stable of artists, which include Drake, Taylor Swift and U2, and identify talent in new markets.
Universal Music’s sales have surged along with the growth in subscription-based music streaming. That growth means it now contributes around 44% of Vivendi’s revenue and has triggered analyst valuations for Universal Music of around 33 billion euros.
Universal Music’s sales rose by around 19% in the first half of the year, helped by album releases of artists such as 17-year-old singer Billie Eilish and Japanese band King & Prince.
Tencent is also big in streaming. Last year it floated its Tencent Music Entertainment Group, whose growth in China mirrors that of Spotify Technology SA in the U.S. and Europe, where streaming has helped music sales grow at their fastest rate since the 1990s.