Immelt a buyer, not a seller


Lots of so-called Wall Street experts have said that General Electric ought to sell NBC Universal. Well, GE CEO Jeff Immelt is looking the opposite direction. He told the Financial Times he sees opportunities in this economic downturn to make acquisitions in media.

While many companies are struggling against big debt loads in tough markets, GE has a solid balance sheet, so Immelt sees the possibility of doing some bargain hunting. He told the FT there might be some opportunities in media consolidation (according to the quote, that possibility was mentioned first), infrastructure, oil/gas and aviation. “And my hope is that we can play in some of those as time goes on,” Immelt was quoted as saying.

Vivendi, which owns 20% of NBC Universal, has the right within the next couple of weeks to exercise its option to force GE to buy its stake. Most observers don’t expect that to happen at the current depressed pricing for media properties.

GE already defied the Wall Street pressure to exit media earlier this year when NBC Universal and a couple of private equity firms teamed up to buy the Weather Channel for $3.5 billion.

RBR/TVBR observation: GE has been divesting some slow-growth businesses. Immelt obviously doesn’t think NBC Uni is a slow growth business for the future. It will be interesting to see where he wants to take the company.