Its another step in GEs efforts to focus on less glamorous, but theoretically more profitable, ventures such as manufacturing medical imaging equipment, airplane engines and electrical generators.
The Fairfield, Connecticut, company announced Tuesday that it is selling its 49 per cent stake in NBCUniversal to Comcast Corp., the largest US cable TV operator, for $16.7 billion. Comcast had bought a majority stake in the television and movie company in January 2011 and was expected to buy out GEs remaining stake over the next several years.
GE will use the money to accelerate its share repurchase program to approximately $10 billion in 2013.
This transaction allows us to significantly increase the cash we plan to return to shareholders in 2013, to approximately $18 billion, and to continue to invest in our industrial business, GE CEO Jeff Immelt said in a statement.
GE is giving up its stake in one of Americas best-known brands. The sale includes the NBC broadcast network. The company also owns cable networks Bravo, CNBC, Telemundo, USA, the Golf Channel and Universal Pictures.
GEs capital unit will also sell the floors NBCUniversal occupies in the iconic 30 Rockefeller Center building in New York as well as property in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, for $1.4 billion. GE will retain two floors at 30 Rock, spokesman Seth Martin said.
The sale of the Rockefeller Center floors includes naming rights to the building, which has featured giant red GE letters at its top since 1988, a prominent part of the New York skyline. A spokesman for Philadelphia-based Comcast said the company had no comment on its plans for the 1933 Art Deco building.
GEs history with NBC goes back to 1919, when it co-founded the Radio Corporation of America, or RCA. The company pioneered commercial radio broadcasting. In 1926, RCA launched a television arm: the National Broadcasting Company, or NBC. Within two years, it had started the first regularly scheduled US television programming in Schenectady, New York, then the site of GE headquarters.
GE sold its stake in RCA in 1932. But in 1986, GE ended up acquiring RCA, selling off its record label and television-manufacturing business. All that remained was NBC.
In 2011, GE sold its majority ownership of NBCUniversal to Comcast for $8 billion in cash and reduced its ownership share from 80 per cent to 49 per cent.