Comcast working with GE to take full ownership of NBCU

Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) apparently likes the programming business--having had a little success turning around NBCUniversal's previously flagging television ratings--so it's not really surprising that word on the street is the nation's top multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) is in talks with General Electric to "speed up" a full ownership takeover of NBCUniversal.

According to an Investor's Business Daily story, the takeover would cost Comcast about $16 billion to buy the 49 percent of the media and entertainment conglomerate it didn't get in 2011. Originally, it was believed Comcast would up its stake via a process that included purchase stages in 2014 and 2018. The story said, however, that Comcast CFO Michael Angelakis has now hinted the deal might go down wholesale in 2014.

"I think if Comcast can get a discount for the rest of GE's stake it would probably like to have full control," William Blair & Co. analyst Nicholas Heymann told the publication.

A little help from GE wouldn't hurt either, added Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett, noting that a GE incentive to move sooner "could certainly tip the scales."

Of course, this is all still speculation, and GE, seeing improvements in the broadcast ratings the NBCU properties have been pulling in, might decide the business is too good to leave. On the other hand, GE has made it clear it's not interested in being an entertainment company.

"It's very much a non-core business for GE," said Citigroup analyst Deane Dray. "With a non-controlling position, the sooner the better for divestiture."

Comcast, apparently, has the money socked away in its cable business.

"Funding is not an issue on the GE stake buy-in, even if accelerated," Nomura analyst Mike McCormack concluded in a report issued Tuesday and covered by story.

For more:
- Investor's Business Daily has this story

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