LOS ANGELES -- Comcast said Tuesday it's buying General Electric's 49 percent stake in the NBCUniversal joint venture for $16.7 billion several years early, as the company takes advantage of low borrowing costs and what chief executive Brian Roberts called a "very attractive price."
At the same time, the company said it would raise its annual dividend 20 percent to 78 cents per share and buy back $2 billion in shares this year. Comcast shares jumped $2.93, or 7.5 percent, to $41.90 in after-hours trading; GE shares rose 76 cents, or 3.4 percent, to $23.34.
Comcast bought a majority stake in the television and movie company in 2011. It had planned to take a larger stake in it over seven years. But Roberts said the sale of Comcast's stake in pay TV network A&E and some wireless spectrum gave it plenty of cash on hand. He also says Comcast got a good deal given that the stock price of media conglomerates has been rising.
"We thought that we would have to pay more later," he said.
Comcast had bought a 51 percent stake in NBCUniversal, home of the NBC television network, from General Electric Co. for $13.8 billion in cash and assets. It came after the government approved the deal with conditions intended to prevent Comcast from keeping NBC programming to itself at the detriment of other cable operators and video websites.
Philadelphia-based Comcast is the nation's largest cable TV operator, with 22 million subscribers. Besides the television network, NBCUniversal runs such cable channels as CNBC, MSNBC and Bravo, the Universal Pictures movie studio and theme parks.