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GE won’t sell NBC Universal, top exec says

/ Source: The Associated Press

The chief executive of General Electric Co. is telling investors that the industrial and financial conglomerate will not sell NBC Universal, despite recurring speculation that GE would shed its media and entertainment division.

Jeff Immelt, in a message to investors in GE’s annual report to be released Wednesday, called NBC Universal a “great example of a business that becomes more valuable as its market evolves.”

“Should we sell NBCU? The answer is no! I just don’t see it happening, not before the Olympics, not after the Olympics,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

NBC will televise the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

GE executives believe the broadcast model will grow more slowly in an increasingly digital industry and have refocused NBC in global markets around faster-growing cable, film and digital businesses, Immelt said.

The businesses represent more than 80 percent of NBC’s earnings and are growing at about 15 percent annually, he said.

“We are in a good cycle, with momentum around the Beijing Olympics, the U.S. elections, and the 2009 Super Bowl,” Immelt said. “NBCU benefits from GE’s global footprint, financial strength, and human resource skills.”

NBC accounted for $15.4 billion in revenue last year, down about 5 percent from 2006, and accounted for about 9 percent of GE’s total revenue of $172.7 billion in revenue last year. Profit, however, was up more than 6 percent, to $3.1 billion.

Last year, Fairfield-based GE sold its plastics division for about $11.6 billion and, citing the troubled subprime mortgage industry, sold its U.S. mortgage business for $117 million.

GE owns 80 percent of NBC Universal, with the other 20 percent controlled by Vivendi.

Besides the NBC broadcast network, NBC Universal’s other networks include Telemundo, USA Network, Bravo, and the SciFi Channel. It also owns the Universal Pictures movie studio and operates Universal Studios theme parks.