Vivendi will sell its stake in NBC to GE

THE French conglomerate Vivendi has agreed in principle to sell its 20 per cent stake in US media giant NBC Universal to majority shareholder General Electric for $5.8bn (&pound;3.5bn).<br /><br />The move will allow GE, which owns the other 80 per cent, to push ahead with its proposals to create a $30bn joint venture with US cable firm Comcast. This would form one of the world&rsquo;s largest media and entertainment companies.<br /><br />Once it takes full control of NBC, GE plans to a sell a 51 per cent stake to Comcast to create a company which would include the NBC network, the Universal film studio and theme parks and Comcast&rsquo;s US cable TV, phone and broadband network.<br /><br />With a tentative agreement in place between GE and Vivendi, an announcement on the Comcast deal could come within days.<br /><br />GE has negotiated a redemption option that would give it the right to redeem all or part of its stake in the new company in exchange for cash after three-and-a-half years and at a seven year mark.<br /><br />Many GE shareholders have urged the company to offload NBC as they see its media networks and theme parks as misfits among GE&rsquo;s industrial operations. NBC Universal was created in 2004 through the merger of NBC and Vivendi Universal.