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General Electric completes buyout of French partner Vivendi's stake in NBC Universal

January 26, 2011 | 12:41 pm

Clearing the way for its handoff of control of NBC Universal, General Electric Co. this week spent $3.8 billion to buy out the remaining interest of its French partner, Vivendi.

Vivendi held on to a 20% stake in NBC Universal, stemming from the French company's 2004 deal when it sold the majority of its U.S. entertainment assets -- including NBC, Universal Studios and cable channels USA Network and Syfy -- to GE.

JeanBernardLevy Last fall, GE began acquiring Vivendi's interest in preparation for NBC Universal's merger with the Philadelphia-based cable operator Comcast Corp. in a deal that is expected to close Friday. Comcast will own 51% of NBC Universal; GE will retain 49%. Comcast's agreement with GE allows GE to completely shed its entertainment holdings by 2018.

Vivendi received $5.8 billion for its stake under terms of a deal hammered out in November 2009 when GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt traveled to Paris to negotiate an exit strategy for Vivendi. Vivendi Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy, in a bid to extract as much as he could for Vivendi's share of NBC Universal, had been obstructing Immelt's attempts to engineer a merger with Comcast.

"We are very satisfied that our strategic objective to exit NBC Universal has been completed," Levy said Wednesday in a statement.  "We wish all parties well in their new venture."

-- Meg James

Photo: Vivendi Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy. Credit: Antoine Antoniol / Bloomberg News