GE, Vivendi differ on NBCU valuation: report

$1 bil difference in valuation of French group's NBCU stake

PARIS/NEW YORK -- General Electric and Vivendi are at least $1 billion apart in their valuation of the French group's stake in NBC Universal, the Financial Times said, dampening hopes of a swift sale.

Analysts believe that after Vivendi's recent costly acquisition of Brazil's GVT, a compromise over valuation is nevertheless likely, though they feel selling the 20% stake is not vital for Vivendi's financial health.

"Following the GVT deal, we believe Vivendi will ultimately sell its stake in NBCU, but not at any price ... Similarly GE needs Vivendi's stake for Comcast for the tie up to go through and we see a compromise as likely," UBS said in a note.

Vivendi officials could not be immediately reached for comment. The company's shares were down 0.4% at €19.08 ($28.33) at 1054 GMT, underperforming a 0.4-% rise in France's CAC bluechip index.

The differences dampen hopes of a quick resolution to a stand-off holding up Comcast's planned bid for a majority stake in the U.S. broadcast group, the newspaper reported. GE owns 80% of NBCU.

On Thursday, Vivendi's Chief Financial Officer Philippe Capron said the French group was close to selling its stake in NBCU but that its board had not yet made a decision as the situation was "complex."

Selling its NBCU stake would give Vivendi more financial headroom, notably if it were to seize further acquisition opportunities in emerging countries, Capron said.

Vivendi, which last week gained control of GVT in a deal valuing the Brazilian company at $4.8 billion, has made clear it would tap available credit lines of €6 billion ($8.9 billion) for the acquisition.

But proceeds from a future NBCU sale could be used to help the group stick to a policy of protecting its investment grade rating and strong dividend if it were to seal more deals in emerging countries or buy out Canal Pus minorities.

"Both for the sake of sentiment and to safeguard the dividend, we believe Vivendi needs to do a deal," Citi said in a recent note.

Citing people familiar with the negotiations, the FT reported that GE and Comcast, the cable operator that wants to take a 51% stake in NBC Universal, have been eager to unveil an agreement before next Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

Although GE and Comcast have been working toward an announcement on Monday, GE and Vivendi remain $1 billion to $2 billion apart on the valuation of the French group's 20% stake in NBC Universal, the report said.

Comcast's offer values NBC Universal at about $30 billion, implying a $6 billion valuation for Vivendi's stake.
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