Wall Street: Comcast getting great deal on NBCU

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NEW YORK – Analysts believe General Electric Co. gave Comcast Corp. a great deal on the half of NBCUniversal that the cable company doesn't already own.

Analyst Matthew Harrigan at Wunderlich Securities said GE "mispriced" the $16.7 billion deal.

Doug Mitchelson at Deutsche Bank said he had expected that GE would have held out for a better price. He asked Comcast executives on a conference call Wednesday morning if they sweetened the deal somehow.

Comcast's chief financial officer, Michael Angelakis, responded that GE's board simply liked that the company could sell its stake earlier than expected. Comcast had bought 51 percent of NBCUniversal in 2011 and was going to buy out the rest from GE gradually, finishing in 2018.

"I think it's a very good deal for them as well," Angelakis said Wednesday. "I think from their standpoint they're going to receive a lot of cash, which we know they're going to deploy to other services. And from our standpoint, I think it was an advantage to accelerate that, and I think we've received a very fair price."

"We think this is an attractive exit price," GE's Chief Financial Officer, Keith Sherin, said on a separate call.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told The Associated Press after the deal was announced Tuesday that the company decided it made sense to buy GE's stake now because the improved performance of the NBC broadcast network and cable-TV programming made it more likely the price would rise in the future.

NBCUniversal operates the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, local TV stations, cable channels such as USA, SyFy and CNBC, the Universal Pictures movie studios and theme parks in Florida and California. It generates about a third of the revenue for Comcast, whose larger business is producing the pipes for cable TV, Internet and phone services.

The deal, expected to be completed by the end of March, values NBCUniversal at $34 billion, not including $5 billion in debt. That's about 13 percent higher than two years ago, when Comcast's investment valued the company at about $30 billion, also excluding debt. By contrast, CBS Corp.'s stock price has more than doubled in those two years and the stock of ABC owner The Walt Disney Co. has risen 41 percent.

Thomas Seitz, analyst at Jefferies & Co., said Comcast was getting an "attractive" value for NBCUniversal, saying the price was just a small premium to the valuation and earnings of other big media companies such as Disney and Time Warner Inc.

Shares of Philadelphia-based Comcast rose $2.35, or 6 percent, to $41.32 in morning trading. In opening trading, it hit $42, matching an all-time high set in March 1999.

Shares of GE, which is based in Fairfield, Conn., rose 77 cents or 3.4 percent, to $23.35. The day's high of $23.44 was the highest level for the stock since 2008.

Complete ownership will let Comcast benefit more from the rising price of sports rights and other TV programs. It avoids solely being in the uncomfortable position of passing those costs onto customers. And long-term rights deals between the TV networks and their cable and satellite distributors have ensured the importance of TV, even as Web video is on the rise.

Besides buying the rest of NBCUniversal, Comcast agreed to pay GE another $1.4 billion for other assets that include one of New York's best-known landmarks, NBC's headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

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