One major obstacle seems to have been settled in Comcast's quest to buy NBC Universal from General Electric--how much to pay for it.
Both companies have reportedly agreed on a price of $30 billion for GE's movie and TV unit, according to sources cited Monday by Reuters and The Wall Street Journal (subscription required for full story).
The agreement on the worth of NBC Universal (NBCU) is a major step toward paving the way to create a new, privately held company that would combine NBC's TV stations and Universal Studios with's TV and cable stations. NBCU's Web properties include iVillage and the online video site Hulu, in which it is a co-owner along with News Corp. and Walt Disney Co.
Under the terms of the proposed deal, Comcast would own a majority 51 percent slice of the new entity, with GE owning the remaining 49 percent.
Further, the two companies have discussed an option whereby GE would sell off all or most of its ownership of the new company to Comcast over the next seven years, according to sources cited previously. Recent reports say that GE and Comcast have now decided how to price the new entity after the deal goes into effect so that GE faces no problems selling off its remaining stake.
The valuation of NBC Universal was seen as a major challenge in advancing the deal, according to sources. Comcast naturally was intent on maximizing the value of its own networks and minimizing the value of NBCU to limit the amount of up-front cash it would need to invest in the new firm. Latest reports say that Comcast would inject anywhere from $4 billion to $6 billion into the new entity.
However, both companies have reportedly agreed to base Comcast's final cash payment on NBCU's financial performance before any finalized deal closes. If its performance tanks, Comcast could end up paying less.
Other challenges remain, too. French media giant Vivendi owns 20 percent of NBCU. Vivendi has reportedly told GE that it wants to sell its stake but has yet to voice approval on any deal of its own. A valuation of the company's 20 percent ownership is currently being discussed, said the source cited by Reuters.
Of course, even if Vivendi agrees to a deal and all looks good, regulatory approval would be required, especially since Comcast would own a huge chunk of national and local media outlets. The Journal said that people close to the talks believe regulatory approval could take at least eight to 12 months.
Comcast's bid for a majority stake in NBC Universal was first.
Requests for confirmation to GE and Comcast were not immediately returned.