Comcast, GE near deal

Price tag of Vivendi's stake in NBC Uni delaying sale

NEW YORK -- Comcast and General Electric have worked out almost all details of a deal that would see the cable giant take a 51% stake in NBC Universal, leaving the price tag on Vivendi's 20% stake in the entertainment company as the main issue left to be resolved.

The annual window during which the French shareholder can decide to sell its stake opened Sunday and runs through Dec. 10. Vivendi could act as a drag on the Comcast-GE deal if it holds out for a good price, but Comcast, led by CEO Brian Roberts, and GE hope to announce an agreement before Thanksgiving.

The proposed combo values NBC Uni at $30 billion and Vivendi's stake at $6 billion, but the latter is banking on a higher payout. UBS analyst Polo Tang said Monday the French company could fetch up to $6.5 billion for its NBC Uni interest.

Comcast and GE have agreed on a board structure that gives the former a majority of board seats. But GE remains locked in intense talks with Vivendi following a potentially helpful development Friday, when the Gallic conglom said it had acquired stock and irrevocable options amounting to a nearly 58% stake in the Brazilian telecom GVT.

That could make the French company more inclined to grab a cash infusion from an NBC Uni sell-off.

"Assuming Vivendi acquires 100% of GVT, it would cost €2.8 billion," Tang said. "Vivendi would have to sell its 20% stake in NBC Uni in order to ease balance sheet pressures."
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