Comcast to Buy Out GE’s Stake in NBC for $16.7 Billion

Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable company, will buy out General Electric Co.’s ownership of NBC Universal for $16.7 billion, following through on the cable company’s purchase of a controlling stake two years ago.

The deal also involves buying the properties used by NBC Universal at 30 Rock building and CNBC’s headquarters for $1.4 billion, Philadelphia-based Comcast said today in a statement. The enterprise value of NBC Universal is now $39.1 billion, up from $37.5 billion when Comcast bought the stake in 2011.

Comcast bought 51 percent of NBC on Jan. 29 of that year for $13.8 billion in cash and assets. Since then, the company has benefited from improving ratings among 18- to 49-year-olds at the broadcast network and better-than-expected ad revenue from the Olympics. For GE, the deal lets it turn an asset that didn’t fit with its business into a source of cash.

“This is an attractive price for us and it gives GE a lot of cash,” Comcast Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts said in an interview. “We like the NBC Universal business.”

Comcast shares jumped as much as 9.1 percent to $42.50 in extended trading after the deal was announced. GE’s stock climbed 4.3 percent to $23.54.

The sale will result in a pretax gain of about $1 billion for GE, the Fairfield, Connecticut-based company said in a separate statement. Those gains will be offset by increased restructuring costs this year, GE said.

Stock Buyback

The company will use proceeds to increase repurchases of its shares by $10 billion a year, GE said. Its board boosted its buyback authorization to $35 billion, of which $23 billion remains available.

“This transaction allows us to significantly increase the cash we plan to return to shareholders in 2013, to approximately $18 billion, and to continue to invest in our industrial business,” GE CEO Jeff Immelt said. “By adding significant new capital to our balanced capital allocation plan, we can accelerate our share buyback plans while investing in growth in our core businesses.”

GE used money raised from the initial sale to bolster its energy division with purchases including Dresser Inc. and the well-support division of John Wood Group Plc. In total, the company spent $11 billion on the acquisitions in a six-month spree that ended in 2011.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. provided financial advice to GE, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges was the company’s legal adviser. In addition, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Centerview Partners and CBRE provided strategic advice related to the transaction. Morgan Stanley and Davis Polk & Wardwell advised Comcast.

Comcast Chief Financial Officer Michael Angelakis had said in September that the company was considering purchasing the remainder of NBC. The network has relied on hit shows such as “Sunday Night Football,” “The Voice” and “Revolution” to boost ratings over the past year, following years of last-place showings.

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