Friday, December 24, 2010

Comcast Says NBCU Deal Won't Close This Year

Comcast and NBC/Universal Logos

Comcast Corp. acknowledged Wednesday that the regulatory approval process for its deal to acquire a majority stake in NBC Universal will continue into January, delaying the cable giant's plan to close the controversial transaction by the end of 2010.

Various media outlets have already reported that the regulatory process in Washington, D.C., was unlikely to conclude this year, but until now, the companies involved in the deal stuck to their forecast that the transaction would close on schedule.

Critics of the deal have argued that a merger of the nation's largest cable company and a major media conglomerate would wield too much power in an industry that's already highly consolidated. Comcast and NBCU have argued that the deal would promote competition and benefit consumers.

"We have notified our transition teams that there will not be a December 31 closing," said Comcast in an emailed statement. "We believe the regulatory review puts us on track for a closing in January 2011."

NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker, who will step down from his post when the transaction is completed, echoed Comcast's statement in a memo to employees, saying the companies have made "substantial progress" with the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice, both of which have to sign off on the deal for it to move forward.

He also said he expects the companies to get a "green light" in January.

"The official close of the transaction would happen shortly after government approval. Until then, of course, business continues as normal," said Zucker.

Comcast reached an agreement with NBCU's majority owner, General Electric Corp., to take control of the media company over a year ago. While a lengthy and difficult regulatory process was widely expected, the investment community has widely anticipated that the deal would close—possibly with some limitations on the merged companies imposed by the federal government aimed at guarding the public's interest.

A number of lawmakers, companies and interest groups have opposed the deal, however, and U.S. President Barack Obama made campaign promises to halt media consolidation, leading some of his supporters to urge against regulatory approval of the deal.

Write to Nat Worden at

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