Rumors are swirling that Comcast is in talks to buy a stake in NBC-Universal, although no one can yet agree how big that stake is. Speculation of a pending deal was sparked by a report from The Wrap on Wednesday evening, and Bloomberg confirmed this morning that the two companies were indeed in talks.
Comcast issued the following statement to several media outlets last night, including The New York Times: “While we do not normally comment on merger and acquisition rumors, the report that Comcast has a deal to acquire NBC Universal is inaccurate.”
There was no official statement from Comcast or NBC on whether the talks had occurred, however. Executives who spoke on condition of anonymity said that Comcast may be interested in buying the 20% share of NBC-Universal that is currently held by the French company, Vivendi.
NBC acquired Universal in a 2004 merger with Vivendi, the previous owners of Universal. Since then, Vivendi has had an annual window to sell its holdings, from November 15 to December 10. Vivendi’s CEO, Jean-Bernard Levy, considers NBC-Universal a “non-core” asset, and a decision to sell may be reached at Vivendi’s upcoming October 14 board meeting.
The Wrap reported that Comcast would purchase all of NBC-Universal for $35 billion. According to Bloomberg’s source, Comcast would only aim to buy around 50%.
General Electric bought NBC in 1985, and currently controls 80% of the company. GE could conceivably aim to buy back Vivendi’s stake, but recent struggles in primetime and at the box office may have NBC-Universal’s parent company looking to unload the lagging unit.