- Associated Press - Saturday, May 5, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - NBCUniversal is planning to sell part of its 15.8-percent ownership in A&E Television Networks to the other partners in the joint venture, Walt Disney Co. and Hearst Co. The deal could be worth about $2 billion.

Comcast Corp., which has a controlling stake in NBCUniversal, said earlier this week, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, that it had exercised an option on March 26 requiring Disney and Hearst to buy back “a substantial portion” of its ownership in A&E. Each company owns about another 42 percent of the network. Philadelphia-based Comcast said it expects the transaction to close in the second half of this year.

Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas and Hearst spokesman Paul Luthringer declined to comment Saturday. A Disney representative wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Citi analyst Jason Bazinet estimated in a research note that NBCUniversal’s stake is worth about $2 billion and could be used to reduce the company’s debt. That could make it easier, he said, for Comcast to eventually acquire the remaining 49-percent stake in NBCUniversal held by General Electric Co.

A&E includes the History Channel, Lifetime, Biography as well as its namesake network.

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