Comcast denies talk of NBC Universal deal

Nation's largest cable company says there is no imminent deal with General Electric to buy the entertainment unit.

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By Julianne Pepitone, CNNMoney.com staff reporter

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Comcast Corp. has denied news reports that it was hammering out a deal to buy entertainment giant NBC Universal from its parent General Electric.

Reports first started surfacing late Wednesday that the two companies were in talks. According to Web site TheWrap, a $35 billion deal had already been completed.

But Comcast refuted the reports. "While we do not normally comment on [mergers and acquisitions] rumors, the report that Comcast has a deal to purchase NBC Universal is inaccurate," Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Khoury told CNN.

A GE spokesman declined to comment.

The fate of NBC Universal -- which includes the NBC television network, Universal Pictures and the Universal theme parks -- has been the target of intensifying speculation recently. French telecom giant Vivendi, which bought a 20% stake in NBC Universal in 2004, has reportedly mulled its option to sell.

Under the deal's original terms, Vivendi has the annual right to divest its stake during a three-week window starting Nov. 15 each year.

Vivendi Chief Executive Jean-Bernard LÚvy has publicly described the stake in NBC Universal as a "non-core asset."

GE (GE, Fortune 500) owns the remaining 80% of NBC Universal. GE originally acquired NBC in 1985, paying just $6.28 billion. In May 2004, NBC and Vivendi Universal merged to form NBC Universal.

The unit has been struggling lately. NBC Universal reported a 41% drop in second-quarter profit to $539 million. Excluding a $95 million writdown and a one-time gain in the 2008 quarter, the company said its profit would have dropped only 24% from the year-earlier period.

Revenue slumped 8% to $3.6 billion during the quarter.

Comcast (CMCSA, Fortune 500), the largest U.S. cable company, failed in an unsolicited bid to buy Walt Disney Co (DIS, Fortune 500). for $54 billion in 2004. The deal would have created the world's biggest media company.

Shares of Comcast were down about 2% premarket, while GE's stock was flat.

-- CNN's Cheryl Robinson contributed to this report. To top of page

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