Waiting for Vivendi: Comcast-NBCU Deal Needs a “Oui”
The former French water utility has the ability to hold up the deal due to its 20 percent stake in NBCU and a put option that gives it the right to sell the stake back to back to GE (GE), hang on to it or take the thing public.
There’s no reason for Vivendi to do anything but the first option, but the company is not going to come out and say so, which means that negotiations for GE to buy the stake aren’t going as fast as it or Comcast (CMCSA) would like. Vivendi itself wrote down the value of the stake by a few billion earlier this year, but that was then, and this is now. New York Post:
The deal, which many assumed would be announced today, is being held up because Vivendi is playing hardball in its negotiations with GE, said several sources close to the deal.
“They’re trying to squeeze every nickel they can out of GE,” said one of these sources. “Why wouldn’t they?”
But again, there’s no reason for this deal not to get done, and Vivendi itself made a strong case for it on Friday by announcing plans to spend some $4 billion on Brazilian telecom GVT. The proceeds of a $6 billion sale sure could come in handy for that, no?
While we’re at it: I wouldn’t read all that much into reports that Comcast plans to appoint current NBCU head Jeff Zucker to run the new business. Perhaps they really do. But even if Comcast didn’t, it would have no choice but to say it does. Remember that any deal will take a very long time to clear regulatory review and that someone has to keep running NBCU in the meantime. This stuff will get more meaningful when we’re closer to showtime.