Comcast is close to finalizing a sale of the 15% interest in A&E Television Networks owned by its NBC Universal joint venture for nearly $3 billion, according to published reports.
According to reports in the The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, NBCU could sell the stake for as much as $2.8 billion. The stake would be split equally between AETN's joint owners The Walt Disney Co. and Hearst Television, which each currently hold a 42.5% interest in the group of channels. After the deal is concluded, Disney and Hearst would each own a 50% interest in AETN.
NBCU has had the right to put its interest in AETN to its partners since 2009, part of the agreement that combined AETN with cable channel Lifetime. In its 10-Q quarterly financial statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in May, NBCU said it would exercise its right to require AETN to purchase its interest. The deal was expected to close in the second half of this year, according to the 10-Q. At the time it valued its AETN stake at about $2 billion.
In addition to Lifetime AETN includes top cable networks History, A&E, Bio, Crime & Investigation Network and Military History.
Analysts have been expecting the sale for a while, and were not surprised that the value of the network has risen - at $2.8 billion for Comcast stake, AETN would be worth about $20 billion as a whole.
Pivotal Research Group cable networks analyst Brian Weiser said the valuation would put AETN in the top tier of programming groups alongside Scripps Networks and Discovery Communications, an appropriate valuation.
AETN reaches more than 300 million homes in 150 countries in 35 languages worldwide. Its group of networks are among the top rated cable channels, ranking fourth behind Viacom, Time Warner and NBC Universal, according to Davenport Research.
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