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GE: No Plans for Write-Down on NBC Universal

Related: Keeping Upbeat During Writedown Season; Tough Go

General Electric it is not expecting to write down the value of its NBC Universal unit, despite news that co-owner Vivendi will.

“We do not expect to have any write downs in assets in our NBC Universal segment," said a GE spokesman.

Vivendi said today it will write down the value of its 20% stake in NBC Universal as a part of its annual goodwill impairment test (General Electric owns the other 80%). A spokeswoman for the French conglomerate said that as part of the company’s accounting process it had to list its risk factors, one of which is possible decline in the value of its NBC Universal stake.

“The impairment test is still underway. We have no exact date for reporting it,” said the spokeswoman, who added, “We don’t expect it to change Vivendi’s outlook or earnings for 2009. There is no cash impact. It doesn’t change anything.” 

The company reports results on March 2. The value of the shareholding was $8 billion putting NBC Universal’s worth at around $40 billion.

One executive with knowledge of the business said that the two companies had always had different valuations of the jointly owned asset with General Electric’s estimate being more conservative. “Vivendi inherited the valuation.”

Separately, Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne lowered estimates on Disney’s stock based on concerns about ad revenue at ESPN. The analyst cited the sports network’s exposures to the auto advertising downturn.

“We have reduced ESPN advertising growth from 1.6% to -2.4% reflecting weakness is the overall advertising market and buyer commentary that sports advertising has been particularly weak,” he wrote.

Morgan Stanley also believes lower DVD sales might hurt the company, though it maintained its “equal-weight,” rating on the stock.