London, Oct. 4 (Reuters): Vivendi Universal and General Electric-owned NBC worked to iron out final wrinkles in their show business merger on Friday as last-minute snags delayed a definitive deal, sources familiar with the situation said.
Vivendi and NBC executives were locked in negotiations to resolve minor issues over tax and minority shareholders, but both sides hoped to lift the curtain next week on their $40 billion-plus entertainment merger, sources said.
Vivendi and NBC declined to comment.
Vivendi chief executive Jean Rene Fourtou and his General Electric counterpart Jeffrey Immelt had hoped to sign a final deal by the end of this week after announcing a preliminary agreement last month, the sources said.
Vivendi kicked off exclusive negotiations with TV network NBC last month to pin down a deal to combine GE’s prestigious Peacock network and cable-TV properties with Vivendi’s Universal Pictures Hollywood and TV production facilities and theme parks.
However, the sources said the signing had been delayed by eleventh-hour wrangling over minor issues and that a deal was now not expected to be announced until next week.
“I wouldn’t say that both sides are concerned that the deal will not happen now, but the talks have hit a stumbling block on minor issues and they need to work through those issues in the next few days,” said one source.
The source said NBC chief executive Bob Wright was working to get the final issues approved by parent General Electric. However, another source denied GE was dragging its feet.
“These are a typical part of the negotiations and nothing big enough to rise to the level of stopping the deal. It’s last-minute fine-tuning in the negotiations,” the source said.
“Bob has the full support of GE to move forward on this.”
Immelt said earlier on Friday he was optimistic a final deal would be sealed, creating a global titan to compete with heavyweights such as Walt Disney Co and Viacom.
“It’s my expectation we will reach agreement with Vivendi,” Immelt said in response to a question after giving a speech in Brussels. Immelt would not comment on the timing.