Comcast's NBCUniversal Nears $2.8 Billion Sale of A&E Networks Stake

 

Comcast's NBCUniversal is planning to sell its 15 percent stake in cable channel firm A&E Networks to other owners Disney and Hearst Corp. for $2.8 billion, sources confirmed.

The companies' success with original programming, such as The Glades and Hatfields & McCoys, is the driver behind the higher-than-expected price tag. In May, Comcast had in a regulatory filing mentioned an estimated value of its stake of $2.02 billion.

"The $2.8 billion price tag is higher than the initial $2 billion," noted Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker. Currently, Disney and Hearst each have a 42.5 percent stake that would increase to 50 percent should the sale take place.

A&E Networks has two of its networks -- History and A&E -- among the top five in the 25-to-54 demo, however, and once again it did well in the ratings during the first half of the year. It also owns Lifetime.

Disney-ABC and Hearst each owns 42.5 percent of A&E, led by CEO Abbe Raven. One source said the shared acquisition of NBCUniversal's stake still has to be finalized and may be announced soon.

The New York Post had said that the deal values A&E Television Networks in the $20 billion range.

"We believe this potential sale is part of the financial plan for Comcast to buy in the remaining stake of NBCU still owned by General Electric," Ryvicker said.

Of its 49 percent stake, GE can put half to Comcast in June 2014 and the other half in January 2018. "According to our calculations, we estimate that half of GE's remaining stake would cost Comcast  about $7 billion-$8 billion in 2014," she said.
 
A&E Networks declined to comment. NBCUniversal couldn't be reached for comment.

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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