NBC Uni not for sale, GE chief Immelt says

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NEW YORK -- Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of NBC Universal parent General Electric, reiterated Tuesday that he has no current plans to sell the entertainment unit and also said GE has no interest in acquiring Dow Jones & Co.

In an appearance on CNBC's "Morning Call," Immelt answered media and entertainment industry-related questions, among others, from anchors Liz Claman and Mark Haines.

"NBC Universal is in a very good cycle for us right now," the GE boss said when asked about a recent analyst note suggesting a sale of the unit would benefit GE and NBC Uni. "It's a good business, and we run it well. What I've always said to you guys, what I've always said to investors, is the second we think that an industry is not good for us, the second we think that somebody can run a business better than we do, we sell it."

Immelt predicted that by the second half of the current year, NBC Uni will bring in double-digit growth again. "We have the Olympics, political elections in 2008," he said. "We have a great growth digital platform. And we think it's good business for us."

Immelt also pointed out that he has sold businesses that contributed about 40% of GE's earnings since his appointment. "I've been pro-investor; I've been aggressive with the portfolio," he said.

Late last month, Citigroup analyst Jeff Sprague suggested a sale or spinoff of some GE businesses, including NBC Uni, would boost the conglomerate's stock price, which he argued has gone sideways for five years. He cited recent "under-performance by NBC Uni and the ability to focus on more industrial businesses as key arguments in favor of a separation.

NBC Uni also would benefit as it would be free "to explore consolidation moves that are harder to consider as part of GE," Sprague said in his report, without providing specifics on possible deal targets.

Asked Tuesday on "Morning Call" about GE's interest in Dow Jones after News Corp.'s $5 billion takeover bid, GE boss Immelt said: "The newspaper business is a separate and distinct business from our core competency." He added: "It's something that Fox and (News Corp. chairman and CEO) Rupert (Murdoch) have a basis in."

Immelt also signaled confidence that CNBC will remain a good business for NBC Universal even when News Corp. launches its Fox Business Channel and if it succeeds in buying Dow Jones, which has a content partnership with CNBC. "Rupert is a successful guy, and I respect everything he does," he said. "But ... CNBC is a very valuable asset to GE and to NBC Universal. And we will absolutely feel great about our position, and we think that this is going to be a good growth business ... we believe in the long-term growth and health of CNBC."
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