Vivendi, the French media conglomerate, could disclose plans for its 20 percent stake in NBC Universal Inc. today, when it announces third-quarter earnings and plans to hold a conference call with financial analysts in Paris.
Comcast Corp. and General Electric Co. have agreed to form a joint venture giving control of NBC Universal to the Philadelphia cable giant, one of the nation's largest purchasers of entertainment.
But the deal is contingent on Vivendi's agreeing to sell its 20 percent stake to GE, which owns the other 80 percent.
Vivendi could seek a higher price from General Electric for its ownership interest in NBC Universal, European analysts warn.
The French company was expected to use proceeds from its sale of NBC Universal to buy a Brazilian phone company. Those plans now may be on hold because a Spanish telephone firm is bidding against Vivendi, which will drive up the cost for Brazil's GVT SA.
Vivendi is expected to walk away from GVT rather than pay a large premium for it.
"Without GVT, there is no pressure on Vivendi," said Alexander Wisch, an equity analyst with Standard & Poor's in London.
"Without GVT, I don't see why they should hold cash," Wisch told Bloomberg News. "There's less pressure on Vivendi to do the deal with NBC Universal than last month."
On its balance sheet, Vivendi has valued its 20 percent NBC Universal stake at $6.3 billion.
The company has scheduled its quarterly conference call for 6 p.m. in Paris, noon Philadelphia time. Vivendi has until mid-December to make an official decision on NBC Universal.
Vivendi spokesman Simon Gillham has said the firm is in no hurry to unload its ownership stake in NBC Universal; Vivendi chief executive officer Jean-Bernard Levy has said he would like to expand into emerging markets.
In advanced talks on a deal, Comcast and GE value NBC Universal at roughly $30 billion. Comcast has agreed to acquire 51 percent of NBC Universal now, but the deal is dependent on Vivendi's actions.
Comcast will buy the remaining 49 percent of NBC Universal over seven years with cash flow from its new acquisition. Sources say Comcast has guaranteed it will have the money to complete the ownership transfer with a "backstop" fund.
If NBC Universal's cash flow fails to produce the money to buy the remaining 49 percent from General Electric, Comcast will cover the shortfall with its cable, phone, and Internet operations, sources say.