GE Unloads Rest of NBCUniversal to Comcast, Share Buybacks and Dividends Await

80s tv set graphic
80s tv set graphic

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) is about to be entirely without its former NBCUniversal media unit. After the close came word that Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA) has decided to acquire GE's entire 49% common equity stake in the NBCUniversal joint venture sooner than expected even if this deal was expected to come about over the next year or two. The price tag is a whopping $16.7 billion, or so.

The press release shows that NBCUniversal will purchase from GE the properties used by NBCUniversal at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and CNBC's headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., for about $1.4 billion.

We already noted that this is sooner than expected. It was said to accelerates GE's divestiture ahead of a redemption period that would have begun in July 2014. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of this year. Comcast said, "Our decision to acquire GE's ownership is driven by our sense of optimism for the future prospects of NBCUniversal and our desire to capture future value that we hope to create for our shareholders."

As far as how that $16.7 billion is worked out, this is not just a straight cash transaction. The transactions will be funded with $11.4 billion of cash on hand. After that, some $4 billion of subsidiary senior unsecured notes will be issued to General Electric and some $2 billion of borrowings under Comcast will be accessed. Another $725 million of subsidiary preferred stock will be issued to GE.

GE also issued its own news and has said that it will lift its share buyback authorization to $35 billion versus about $23 billion already authorized and remaining today. GE said it expects cost reductions exceeding $2 billion through 2014. The conglomerate said that the transaction will result in pre-tax gains of $1 billion for GE and $900 million or so for GE Capital. Comcast also said that it will boost its common stock dividend to $0.195 from $0.1625 per share per quarter. That new yield will give Comcast a common dividend yield of closer to 2.0%.

Comcast shares are up to the tune of 7% at $41.65 and GE shares are up 2.4% at $23.13 in the preliminary after-hours reaction.

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Accounting, Conglomerates, Corporate Governance, Dividends & Buybacks, Media, Mergers & Acquisitions, Mergers and Buy Outs Tagged: CMCSA, GE