SoftBank, the Japanese telecoms group, proposed an $8.5 billion bid for Universal Music, the world's largest music group, about three months ago but was turned down, according to several people familiar with the proposal.
Vivendi, Universal's French owner, has been under pressure to restructure its portfolio of telecoms and media assets but told SoftBank it was not interested because it saw the music company as central to its future strategy, these people said.
Vivendi and SoftBank declined to comment.
An $8.5 billion offer, premised on the idea that music is some of the most heavily-consumed content on mobile devices, would value Universal at $2 billion to $3 billion above most analyst estimates.
Claudio Aspesi of Bernstein Research, who values Universal at $6.3 billion, said the premium underscored the attractiveness of the asset but "will only add to the frustration of [Vivendi] shareholders".
Vincent Bolloré, the French activist investor, has built a 5 percent stake in Vivendi and shareholders have been pressing for a faster pace of disposals since Jean-René Fourtou, its chairman, began a review of its businesses after Jean-Bernard Levy's sudden exit as chief executive last June.
SoftBank's all-cash proposal was put to Vivendi's board, one person familiar with the details said, and was not contingent on the outcome of the Japanese group's $21.6 billion bid for control of Sprint, the US mobile operator.
The message that Universal Music is not for sale fits with Vivendi's strategy of trying to sell its telecoms holdings and regroup around entertainment assets, which comprise Universal and majority stakes in French TV group Canal Plus and Activision Blizzard, the US video games company.