How Comcast 'Stole' NBCUniversal From General Electric
In Tuesday's deal for the remaining 49% stake, Comcast will fork over a further $12 billion in cash to GE, $4 billion in what's assumed to be low-cost Comcast debt, and about $1 billion in the company's preferred shares. Still, Comcast's actual cash payment may be far lower.
The "cost to Comcast shareholders is effectively $14.4 billion," Guggenheim Securities analyst Shing Yin wrote in a note that highlights $4.6 billion will be cash from NBCU's own balance sheet. "In theory, Comcast shareholders have claims to only 51% of this cash, so the cost to shareholders could be viewed as being $2.3 billion lower than the headline $16.7 billion number."
Citigroup analysts note that the second part of the buy-in hinged on an agreement to value the remaining 49% stake in NBCUniversal based on market multiples ascribed to competitors. They characterized Tuesday's deal as a 'fair' price.
In a separate Tuesday deal, GE will receive a further $1.4 billion in cash from Comcast for control of NBCU occupied floors in the company's 30 Rockefeller Center headquarters, and the headquarters of CNBC in New Jersey.
Still, if Comcast can be characterized as a victor in the NBCUniversal deal that doesn't necessarily mean GE is playing the role of a sucker.
In fact, the deal as it stands is likely to be a win for both companies given their respective needs and corporate strategies.
For Comcast, Cohen of Bank of America predicts that owning NBCUniversal in full will add about 11% to the company's overall earnings per share this year and a similar amount in coming years. The key, Cohen notes, is that NBCUniversal's operating performance is now definitively on the upswing.
In 2012, NBCUniversal revenue rose nearly 13% to over $23 billion in annual sales, while operating cash flow grew over 9% to $4.1 billion. Those figures, in addition to low cost financing arrangements and potential divestitures by Comcast of its minority interest in A&E and a sale of spectrum to Verizon(VZ) for about $2.3 billion may help to keep the company's balance sheet in check, according to Cohen.
General Electric shareholders are unlikely to complain about Tuesday's deal or the full disposal of its long-held media empire, given the already unwieldy size and scope of the conglomerate.
In fact, the first leg of the NBCUniveral deal came at a time when GE was selling assets in order to stabilize its financial services arm and repay billions in crisis-time government loans. The second leg of the NBCU stake sale may reflect the company's newfound ability to return growing amounts of capital to shareholders, as crisis-time woes fade.
On Tuesday, GE said the stake sale and a divestiture of real estate assets will cause accounting gains of $1 billion for the parent company and $900 million for GE Capital the industrial conglomerate's financial services arm. In total GE is selling $18.1 billion in assets, when real estate properties are included.