Will Comcast Buy NBC Universal From GE?

nbcu.jpgRumors, theories and conjectures have been swirling since The Wrap reported yesterday that a deal between cable provider Comcast and GE-owned NBC Universal “had already been completed at a purchase price of $35 billion.”

But reps from Comcast later told Bloomberg, “the report that Comcast has a deal to purchase NBC Universal is inaccurate.”

However, that same report revaled that “negotiations for Comcast to buy about 50 percent of NBC Universal have been under way for at least two months.” Such a deal would depend on whether French company Vivendi SA decides to sell its 20 percent stake in NBCU.

After the jump, what some people around the industry are saying about the possible deal.

Update: Our sister blog TVNewser has an email from NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker to employees. Of the future of Vivendi’s stake, Zucker said, “They have not yet made us aware of any final decisions about their future with us; should they choose to exit, there are a number of possible things that could happen.”

– Nikki Finke has been reporting on rumors of a possible deal for weeks, since Vivendi’s put option is coming due — which would force a sale of its holdings to GE or public investors. But Comcast isn’t the only possible buyer:

“I’ve learned that GE for the past two months has talked to at least half a dozen tire-kickers for either an investment in or acquisition of Vivendi’s 20 percent of NBCU or more of the media company…Both Comcast and Time Warner have built up war chests which their CEOs could spend on a deal like this instead of continuing share buybacks. Then again, the deal would have to make sense.”

The Wall Street Journal points out that there are many different directions that a deal for Vivendi’s stake could take:

“Executives at various NBC Universal divisions are involved in making preparations for a public offering of Vivendi’s stake, say people familiar with the matter. GE is exploring other possible options for Vivendi’s stake, including third-party buyers, people with knowledge of the matter say.”

– Can these statements from Comcast COO Steve Burke reveal the company’s interest in an acquisition? All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka digs in, concluding:

“The only way I can reconcile Burke’s comments with the notion that Comcast is interested in an NBC U deal would be if Comcast was talking about buying Vivendi’s 20 percent stake in the NBC U.”

The Washington Post says a possible Comcast-NBCU deal will “give Comcast an enormous amount of content for its distribution pipeline.”

NBC Universal currently owns NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC, Spanish-language Telemundo and cable channels USA and Bravo. It’s also a joint owner of A&E Television Networks, which acquired Lifetime Entertainment Services in August.

Earlier: A&E Television Net Acquires Lifetime Entertainment