America's General Electric Eyes Media Acquisitions

17 November 2008

NEW YORK: General Electric Company, America's largest technology and services operation, is eyeing certain media assets as potential acquisition targets, chief executive Jeffrey Immelt (pictured) revealed to the Financial Times in a weekend interview.

In a clear signal that the cash-rich defense-to-broadcasting conglomerate is unbowed by recession, Immelt said the firm's resources will  enable it to capitalize on bargains.

"There are going to be some opportunities in media consolidation, in infrastructure, oil and gas, aviation", he said. "And my hope is that we can play in some of those as time goes on.”

Some observers believe that Immelt's bullish stance could be a ploy to draw-out Vivendi, the holder of a 20% stake in NBC Universal, as the French conglomerate nears its yearly 'put option' under which it can compel GE to buy back its holding in the broadcast giant.  

Invited by the FT to comment on the Vivendi's situation, Immelt was wary in the extreme, saying only: "They are, and continue to be, great partners."

Vivendi too was zip-lipped, although people with an ear to the French company's boardroom door say that it  would be reluctant to sell at current bottom-trawling valuations.  

Earlier this year Vivendi ceo Jean-Bernard Lévy told the FT it was not a short-term seller of the stake, adding with a Gallic shrug: "One day we will probably decide to exit."

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff