Comcast Corp clinched full control of NBC Universal for $16.7 billion on Tuesday, the latest in a series of deals that have taken the cable operator from humble roots in Tupelo, Mississippi, to Manhattan's iconic Rockerfeller Center.
The nation's largest cable operator unveiled plans on Tuesday to buy out General Electric Co's remaining 49 percent stake in the NBC Universal joint venture. That gives it full control of one of the industry's largest and most profitable stable of cable networks, as well as the NBC broadcast network with its recognizable peacock logo.
Combining properties such as USA Network, Universal Studios and more than 22 million cable subscribers, the deal completes a 50-year transformation for Comcast, which was founded by Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts' father, Ralph, in 1963.
Comcast bought 51 percent of NBC Universal in 2011 after winning antitrust approval from the Justice Department. Tuesday's deal comes at least two years sooner than planned and creates a $39 billion business owed primarily to the success of marrying cable distribution with cable programming. The rational behind the deal differentiates Comcast from rivals such as Time Warner Cable Inc, which separated content from distribution.
"The reality is content has gotten stronger and stronger and safer and safer, so Comcast should be trading at a premium to the cable operators. They are an integrated media and entertainment company. They are not just a cable operator," said John Tinker, an analyst at Maxim Group.
In addition to the main deal, which pushed up Comcast shares about 7 percent in after hours trading, Comcast will also gain full control of the floors NBC uses at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City and CNBC's headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, for about $1.4 billion.
Comcast said it would fund the deal with $11.4 billion of cash on hand, $4 billion in senior unsecured notes to be issued to GE, $2 billion in credit facility borrowings and the issuance of $725 million in subsidiary preferred stock to GE.
"Given that media stocks have gone up quite a bit, it's a very attractive price, a fair price because we had a formula buyout," Roberts, who is also chairman of the company, said in an interview with Reuters.
Separately, Comcast said it would increase its dividend by 20 percent and it would buy back $2 billion in stock this year. GE also said it would accelerate its own share buy-back program to $10 billion this