GE talking to Comcast over NBC Universal

City A.M. Reporter
GENERAL Electric is understood to be holding talks to sell 51 per cent of NBC Universal to Comcast, which would pay up to $7bn (&pound;4.4bn) in cash and contribute some programming assets to the new, jointly owned company.<br /><br />GE, which owns 80 per cent of NBC Universal, is considering a host of proposals for NBC Universal as partner Vivendi explores whether to sell its 20 per cent stake.<br /><br />At the moment, however, a deal with Comcast appears to be the most likely outcome, though a source close to the discussions said talks are still in the early stages and could fall apart. Under the plan, GE would buy Vivendi&rsquo;s stake, and put the borrowings that fund the deal on NBC Universal&rsquo;s balance sheet. Other debt would also be added to the balance sheet of what would essentially be a new, stand-alone company.<br /><br />Comcast is thought to be looking at taking a 51 per cent stake in that company by contributing a combination of about $6-$7bn in cash and some of its own programming assets.<br /><br />Over time, Comcast could increase its ownership stake, most likely funding it from cash generated by the new NBC Universal, according to CNBC, which first reported the news.<br /><br />The structure would allow Comcast to acquire the cable assets it has long coveted, without taking on new debt or issuing equity.<br /><br />GE is also thought to have studied several additional options should Vivendi drop its stake in NBC Universal, which owns the NBC broadcast network plus theme parks, a movie studio and cable channels like Bravo, USA and CNBC. Among those options, GE could find another buyer for NBC Universal or look to sell part of the media company through an initial public offering.<br /><br />Vivendi, NBC Universal, Comcast and GE have declined to comment on any talks. Time Warner is another company often linked to interest in NBC Universal.