Comcast takes full control of NBCUniversal for $16bn

US cableco Comcast has agreed to purchase the 49% stake in NBCUniversal held by GE for around US$ 16.7bn, giving it lock, stock and barrel ownership of one of North America’s biggest media companies.

The deal, which is expected to close in the first quarter of this year, also involves the purchase by NBCUniversal of its GE-owned headquarters at Rockefeller Plaza, New York, and those of its subsidiary CNBC in New Jersey for around US$ 1.4bn.

Comcast and GE currently share ownership of NBCUniversal after closing a buyout agreement for the company in early 2011, giving Comcast a 51% stake and GE 49%.

The media company was originally formed in 2004 by the merger of General Electric’s NBC with French media group Vivendi’s Vivendi Universal Entertainment.

“This is an exciting day for Comcast as we have agreed to accelerate the purchase of NBCUniversal,” said Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast.

“Our decision to acquire GE’s ownership is driven by our sense of optimism for the future prospects of NBCUniversal and our desire to capture future value that we hope to create for our shareholders.

“We believe the terms of the transaction are attractive and have planned for this event by taking a number of financial steps to prepare our balance sheet.

“We believe we are in a strong and unique position to continue to grow and build value in our combined company,” concluded Roberts.

The transaction will be funded predominantly through cash in hand, although Comcast will also borrow around US$ 2bn.

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