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NBC Universal Q3 Operating Income Surges Despite Weak Box Office

19 Oct, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Despite just five movies in the top 50 box office ticket sales so far this year, NBC Universal posted a 13% rise in third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) operating income to $732 million, from $645 million during the prior-year period.

NBC Universal properties include Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Filmed entertainment revenue topped $1 billion, down 20% from last year. Operating income fell more $120 million.

“The film business had a very tough third quarter,” said Keith Sherin, vice chairman and CFO of parent General Electric, in a call with investors. “We had tough comparisons to last year plus less than expected box office performance this year.”

CEO Jeff Immelt said NBC Universal had operated on par with current industry standards but below GE’s expectations.

The conglomerate generated $283 million in after-tax revenue from the combined sales of Lifetime Network and A&E channel.

General Electric is reportedly negotiating a possible majority share sale of NBC Universal to Comcast Corp. Current challenges include a difference of opinion regarding the valuation of French media company Vivendi’s minority 20% interest.

Immelt, who declined to comment on acquisition talks, said he would also consider forming an IPO for NBC Universal or taking on a third-party partner in the venerable media company.

Separately, former News Corp. president and COO Peter Chernin is reportedly assisting cable giant Comcast in its bid to acquire a majority stake in NBC Universal.

Chernin, who recently formed Chernin Entertainment, is not expected to take a management position with NBC Universal should Comcast acquire control, reported The New York Times.

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