GE, Vivendi strike tentative deal on NBCU share

General Electric and Comcast have moved one step closer to a deal that will give the cable giant a controlling interest in NBC Universal after GE and Vivendi agreed to value the French media conglomerate's 20% stake in NBCU at $5.8 billion, Reuters is reporting. If so, the long-awaited -- and expected -- joint venture between GE and Comcast could move forward quickly.

Vivendi and GE have been stalemated over the value of the Paris-based company's share in the digital peacock network, with Vivendi demanding $6.1 billion for the property it acquired from GE in 2004. Reuters said the tentative agreement for the sale came about as the result of a meeting in Paris last week between GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt and Vivendi CEO Jean-Bernard Levy. GE initially offered just $5 billion for the stake. Vivendi, knowing a deal between GE and Comcast couldn't move forward without its share, played hardball, holding out for more.

Also at issue was when Vivendi was to be paid for its stake; Reuters said the new agreement calls for the company to get one-third of the sale price immediately, with the final payment made after GE and Comcast complete their deal, which might not happen until the end of the 2010. Vivendi originally wanted the entire price to be paid upon the sale.

A week ago, Comcast and GE reportedly reached a deal that would make Comcast the majority owner in a joint venture for NBCU, which the two agreed to value at $30 billion. The deal would create one of the world's largest media companies and give Comcast control of a major programming network along with the cable networks it already owns, and a major stake in Hulu, the online video hub that has been a thorn in Comcast's side.

A deal for NBCU is expected to be announced within a few days, but could take regulatroy hurdles ranging from six months to a year or more.

For more:
- see this Reuters report

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