Let’s get this straight: NBC Universal is now formally in play. But that struggling Hollywood blog is spewing bullshit: there is nowhere even close to a Comcast deal for it. There are “5 or 6″ interested parties, including Comcast, other media giants, and a consortium of private equity companies, who all are at the preliminary stages of kicking the tires on GE’s NBC Universal. “It is very early. They just started putting the deal books out on the street for NBC Universal,” one of my sources told me this morning about GE’s plans to spin-off the TV/movie studio subsidiary if Vivendi as expected exercises its put. Most importantly, insiders say GE is now willing to cede a controlling 51% stake in NBCU to any potential buyer for the right deal. That makes sense, because no media giant or other company wants just a passive investment in NBCU. That’s why Vivendi may shed it’s 20%.
Though GE has not yet commented substantively, and probably won’t, the company often uses its own CNBC reporters to impart news about GE and its subsidiaries. That is clearly what is happening right now. CNBC’s reliable reporter David Faber just updated his own reporting. (UPDATE: Comcast emailed his report to reporters 30 minutes later.) Faber said one scenario is that GE would buy Vivendi’s 20% and spin off NBCU into a new private company which could merge with the Comcast’s content assets valued at $6 billion, including E! Entertainment channel, the Golf channel, and a group of regional sports networks. Comcast also would contribute $7 billion in cash in exchange for 51% economic control. Faber’s scenario has GE spinning a significant amount of debt, $12 billion, into the new company which GE would take 49% control. But even Faber admitted that “nothing is imminent”, and any deal between Comcast and NBC is “far from certain”. Especially because Comcast stock took a hit today on the news from nervous investors. But Faber stressed that under the scenario, Comcast would not issue equity or endanger its investment grade credit rating.