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Comcast looking to unload its stake in A&E Television Networks

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Comcast Corp. has put the wheels in motion to sell the bulk of its small but valuable stake in A&E Television Networks whose holdings include cable channels A&E, History and Lifetime.

In a filing at the Securities and Exchange Commission, Comcast said its programming unit NBCUniversal had exercised an option to unload a ‘substantial portion’ of its interest in A&E Television Networks to Walt Disney Co. and Hearst Corp., the other partners in the venture. Comcast has put the worth of its 15% stake in A&E Television Networks at $2 billion. Disney and Hearst each own 42.5% of the company.

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The move is not surprising as NBCUniversal had to eventually sell its piece of A&E Television Networks. In 2009, NBC had owned 25% of A&E Networks. However, that stake shrank by almost half when Disney and Hearst Corp. -- co-owners of Lifetime Television and its sister channels -- merged those networks into A&E Networks. When that agreement was reached, part of the deal called for NBC to exit the partnership within 15 years.

In its filing, Comcast said it expected an agreement to be reached on the value of its equity interest during the second half of this year.

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--Joe Flint


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