When *Scripps Networks Interactive* execs finally met with analysts Friday, CEO Ken Lowe called the acquisition of a majority stake the Travel Channel the worst-kept secret in M&A. Sorry, Ken, that distinction belongs to a deal being played out in the press with leaks that might better be termed gushers: the proposed joint venture between Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) and General Electric that would give the country’s largest cable operator control over NBC Universal (NYSE: GE). Better yet, it’s a deal that can’t really happen unless Vivendi (EPA: VIV) takes its well-lighted exit path out of its joint venture with GE. That announcement could come (if everyone who has been writing and reading about it had a vote, it would come) in tandem with Vivendi’s Q3 results Thursday; Vivendi told GE this summer it was interested in an exit but hasn’t delivered its final answer. Until Vivendi makes it official, I’m told Comcast and GE won’t make an announcement of their own. Vivendi CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy recently expressed interest in an IPO for Vivendi’s 20 percent, one of the options spelled out in the Vivendi-GE agreement.
Meanwhile, WSJ reports that Comcast and GE have agreed on some more key financial points, including valuing NBCU at $30 billion and avoiding pre-set prices for Comcast to buy out GE’s 49 percent interest. Comcast’s cash payment would be based on NBCU’s finanicals when the deal closes, not now. The fastest estimate for regulatory approval is eight months; some estimates take it to a year or longer. (Brian Stelter takes a look at the regulatory picture; until the full parameters of a deal are known, it’s a little tough to get an accurate map.)
A $30 billion valuation would put Vivendi’s part at $6 billion, which would still be shy of the $6.3 billion it is said to think its share should be worth. Getting that kind of money out of today’s IPO market is iffy at best. The same day that Vivendi’s CEO spoke of an IPO, former NBCU Chairman Bob Wright said an IPO wasn’t attractive and he expected a settlement. Mais oui.