Vivendi S.A. chief financial officer Philippe Capron nipped
any hopes of news on the Comcast-NBC Universal merger in the bud Thursday,
telling analysts and investors on the company's third-quarter conference call that
it would not discuss the potential merger.
"At the risk of disappointing some of you, I have to make a
preliminary statement. We are not going to comment on the NBCU or GVT
situations, so please abstain from asking questions after the presentation
because we are not at liberty to give any comment on either of those two
situations," Capron said to start the call.
In September, Vivendi launched a tender offer to acquire
Brazilian telecom company GVT.
That deal is still pending. That tender offer was first thought to be the
catalyst for Vivendi's plans to monetize its NBCU interest. But the Brazilian
deal is reportedly on hold.
Vivendi holds a 20% interest in NBCU and it is the French
firm's right to monetize that stake -- beginning on Nov. 15 -- that set the wheels of speculation in motion
regarding the network. According to published reports and people familiar with
the negotiations, Comcast and NBCU parent General Electric are close to a deal
that would give Comcast a 51% controlling interest in an NBCU joint venture that would also include Comcast's cable networks.
Vivendi, however, holds the trump card on any deal --
reports and people familiar with the negotiations have said that talks hinge on
Vivendi agreeing to sell its stake. As part of the deal that created NBCU in
Vivendi has the right every Nov. 15 to force an initial public offering of the stake,
sell it to GE or a third party, or hold onto it. That right extends into
December (the Friday of the first full week of the month, or Dec. 11 this
While Vivendi had valued the stake at around $6 billion
earlier this year, that was before interested buyers emerged. While the
ultimate value of the stake will fall on Vivendi, it is likely it will increase
significantly as time progresses.
According to published reports, GE and Comcast have
agreed to value the JV at about $30 billion.