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GE completes its purchase of Vivendi's stake in NBC Universal

The conglomerate pays the remaining $3.8 billion it owed under a $5.8-billion deal for the French firm's 20% ownership of NBC Universal. The payment clears the way for GE to sell a controlling interest in NBC Universal to Comcast.

January 27, 2011|By Meg James, Los Angeles Times

Clearing the way for its handoff of control of NBC Universal, General Electric Co. this week spent $3.8 billion to buy out the remaining interest of its French partner, Vivendi.

Vivendi held on to a 20% stake in NBC Universal as part of the French company's 2004 deal when it sold the majority of its U.S. entertainment assets — including NBC, Universal Studios and cable channels USA Network and Syfy — to GE.

Last fall, GE began acquiring Vivendi's interest in preparation for NBC Universal's merger with the Philadelphia cable operator Comcast Corp. in a deal that is expected to close Friday. Comcast will own 51% of NBC Universal; GE will retain 49%. Comcast's agreement with GE allows GE to completely shed its entertainment holdings by 2018.

Vivendi agreed to sell its stake for $5.8 billion under terms of a deal reached in November 2009 when GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt traveled to Paris to negotiate an exit strategy for Vivendi. Vivendi Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy, in a bid to extract as much as he could for Vivendi's share of NBC Universal, had been obstructing Immelt's attempts to engineer a merger with Comcast.

"We are very satisfied that our strategic objective to exit NBC Universal has been completed," Levy said Wednesday in a statement. "We wish all parties well in their new venture."

Separately, on Wednesday NBC Universal struck a deal to sell KWHY-TV, one of its Spanish-language stations based in Los Angeles, to Meruelo Group, an investment company headed by Alex Meruelo with holdings in real estate and construction.

The station, which carries Latino programming, is being sold by NBC Universal to comply with Federal Communications Commission rules that forbid a company to own three TV stations in one city. NBC Universal had a waiver to that rule but agreed to sell the station as part of its deal to win regulatory approval to be taken over by Comcast.

meg.james@latimes.com

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