Jeffrey Immelt’s latest tack to convince people that NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) parent General Electric is staying in the media business — talk about buying more media assets. The GE chairman and CEO told the FT “There are going to be some opportunities in media consolidation, in infrastructure, oil and gas, aviation. And my hope is that we can play in some of those as time goes on.”
Those who may need convincing include Vivendi (EPA: VIV), which owns 20 percent of NBCU. As FT points out, it’s time for the annual guessing game over whether Vivendi will exercise its put option for GE to buy that stake and whether GE would sell NBCU to avoid further investment. GE acquired the majority of NBCU in a $14 billion deal in 2004. But much has changed at GE since the last time this question came up, including the company’s structure and NBCU’s designation as one of five operating units. Vivendi’s put option runs through 2016 and is based on market value; starting 2011, GE has an annual window with call rights through 2017 with a floor price of $8.3 billion that will increase based on the Consumer Price Index. Odds are Vivendi will cash in at some point but as long as the French company can afford to wait for the market to cycle back, why sell now?