Reports that cable giant Comcast was in talks to acquire a large stake in NBC Universal from General Electric sent Comcast’s stock price skidding on Thursday. Shareholders clearly want nothing to do with such a large acquisition in old media. The stock closed Thursday at $15.69, down 7.1% for the day.
Hollywood-based The Wrap got the scoop, reporting that Comcast was in talks to acquire NBCU for $35 billion. Comcast issued a statement denying that any deal had been struck. But it did not deny that any talks were going on.
Other reports surfaced throughout the day Thursday, all citing unnamed sources familiar with the discussions, claiming that Comcast was not negotiating to buy NBCU outright, but about 50%. If true, that would make it the largest shareholder, since Vivendi owns 20%. Or, it might be buying out the Vivendi stake as part of the deal.
Rumors about the fate of NBCU float about this time every year, since Vivendi has an annual window in which it has an option to put its stake to GE – and if GE declines to buy it for cash, it would then have to do an IPO of NBCU. As is the usual case, Vivendi CEO Jean-Bernard Levy has been playing close to the vest about what he will do this year. It’s a game he seems to enjoy playing.
RBR-TVBR observation: Is this a strategic move by Comcast, or just a preliminary fishing expedition by GE? Jeff Immelt has to make some preparation in case Vivendi decides to exercise its put. But if that doesn’t happen, will GE simply leave things as they are with NBCU for another year?