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StockBeat: Markets Stabilize After China Shock; Vivendi Surges on UMG Deal

By Geoffrey Smith -- Europe’s stock markets bounced unconvincingly in morning trading on Tuesday, recouping less than half of their losses on Monday on the back of a sharp escalation in the U.S.-China trade war.

By 5:15 AM ET (0915 GMT), the benchmark Stoxx 600 was up 0.6% at 371.58. The German Dax was up 0.7%, helped by a stabilization in factory orders in June, but the U.K. FTSE was underperforming, up only 0.1%. The Danish OMX Copenhagen 20 index led the way with a gain of 1.2%.

Markets have taken in their stride the U.S.’s decision to label China a currency manipulator, after the yuan fell through 7 to the dollar on Monday for the first time since 2008. Ironically, the move came at a time when the Chinese central bank was resisting downward pressure on the yuan, evident in the fact that the offshore yuan rate – which it does not control – fell further than the tightly managed onshore rate. The dollar held above 7 yuan in both markets Tuesday.

Among individual stocks, French entertainment group Vivendi (PA:VIV) was the standout performer, rising over 7% after it announced it was in talks to sell a 10% stake in Universal Music Group to China’s Tencent Holdings (OTC:TCEHY) at a price that valued UMG at 30 billion euros ($33.6 billion). The deal would include an option for Tencent to buy another 10% at the same price. Vivendi said it would continue to look for additional partners.

Vivendi (PA:VIV) has been looking for partners to help unlock the value in a revitalized UMG for over a year, but had consciously ruled out an IPO, fearing that public markets would never give it as generous a valuation as a trade buyer. Tencent’s opportunity lies in having a powerful platform to promote UMG’s artists in a region where they are scarcely visible. Asia as a whole accounted for less than 13% of UMG’s revenue in the first quarter.

The 30 billion euro valuation for UMG makes clear how little the market values Vivendi’s other assets, given that Vivendi itself only has a market capitalization of 32.5 billion euros. In addition to UMG, Vivendi owns France’s biggest pay TV company Canal+, a 24% stake in Telecom Italia (MI:TLIT) (worth 2.5 billion at current market prices), advertising agency Havas and video game publisher Game Loft.

Elsewhere, U.K. fast fashion retailer (LON:BOOH) rose 3.4% after announcing it had struck a deal to buy the online business of Karen Millen out of administration proceedings, while Rolls Royce (LON:RR) fell 0.7% after announcing a provision for issues relating to the Trent 1000 engine. That overshadowed a rise in operating profit. Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA (OL:NWC) fell over 8% amid continuing fears for its outlook after a lukewarm monthly traffic update.

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