The companies aren’t commenting but it sounds like Vivendi (EPA: VIV) and General Electric may have reached an agreement that will pave the way for the much-discussed deal that would make Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) a majority owner of NBC Universal (NYSE: GE). The Wall Street Journal is reporting that GE has agreed to buy the French conglomerate’s 20 percent stake in NBCU for $5.8 billion — far higher than the $5 billion GE reportedly offered at first and considerably less than the $6.3 billion value Vivendi placed on it earlier this year. That $5.8 billion figure has been dangled publicly for more than a month. Vivendi head Jean-Bernard Levy and GE CEO Jeff Immelt met in Paris last week, which may have helped the cause. But Vivendi has yet to make it official and could still refuse to sell or force an IPO for its share.
Update: NYT, AP and Reuters chiming in. (Of course, they each could be talking to the same source.) *Reuters* has Vivendi originally valuing the stake at $6.1 billion and GE offering $5.6 billion earlier this month, which makes $5.8 billion seem like a better compromise. Add to that the risk that an IPO wouldn’t raise as much, particularly in today’s market, and $5.8 billion looks a little sweeter.
GE has a tentative deal with Comcast that would make the U.S.’s largest cable operator the 51 percent owner of NBCU in exchange for as much as $6 billion in cash plus its own cable networks — but GE would own it all until the deal closes.