Vivendi SA said Wednesday it will significantly reduce the EUR550 million provision it had made to cover potential damages for a U.S. class action case after a U.S. judge narrowed the size of the class.
The Paris-based company's potential liabilities have been slashed by 80% in light of the court victory, which will free up more cash as the group prepares to buy out Vodafone PLC's minority stake in telecoms operator SFR.
Vivendi made the provision in its 2009 accounts to cover any eventual payout after a jury in January last year found the company liable for 57 misstatements about its financial condition in the two years leading up to its near bankruptcy in 2002.
The damages arising from the ruling in January 2010, which was based on a class involving shareholders outside the U.S., could have totaled more than $9 billion, according to lawyers for the shareholders, although Vivendi's lawyer Herve Pisani rejected the sum as "unfounded."
The ruling Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell that shareholders who bought Vivendi shares outside the U.S. are barred from bringing fraud claims against the company in the U.S., considerably narrowed the overall size of the potential class.