Vivendi Sells Its Stake In NBC Universal

Vivendi has sold its 20 percent stake in NBC Universal to General Electric Co. for $5.8 billion.

The French media giant had retained its share since spinning off its film and television arm, including the Universal studios, to form NBC Universal in 2004. General Electric Co., NBC’s parent company, held the majority interest.

The deal paves the way for GE to offload 51 percent of the company to Comcast Corp. in a deal that values NBC at $30 billion. In addition to its cable channels, Comcast would contribute up to $6 billion of cash to the proposed joint venture. GE and Comcast have been discussing the deal since March.

If that deal isn’t nailed down by September 2010, Vivendi will sell 7.66 percent of NBC Universal to GE for $2 billion. The remaining 12.34 percent will be sold for $3.8 billion to GE when the deal is completed.

If the GE-Comcast deal falls through, Vivendi would launch an accelerated initial public offering of its remaining 12.34 percent of NBC.

Vivendi will continue to receive quarterly dividends from NBC Universal between now and the completion of the GE-Comcast transaction. GE has agreed to make transaction payments to Vivendi to the extent that NBC Universal’s 2010 dividend payments to Vivendi are less than $268 million.

“Vivendi is happy to contribute to the creation of a major player in the world of television, film and theme parks,” said Vivendi management board chairman Jean-Bernard Lévy.

“This transaction is in line with Vivendi’s strategic objectives and is in the best interests of its shareholders. We are now opening a new chapter in the group’s history. Once this agreement is completed, Vivendi will have exclusive control of all its assets.”

He said the company will be “more coherent, and more focused on rapidly growing countries.” It will have a stronger presence in communications and entertainment businesses that it has managed for many years.