Comcast stunned investors Tuesday by disclosing its plan to buy out General Electric way ahead of schedule. It also released Q4 earnings that were expected tomorrow, and announced a 20% increase in its dividend as well as a $2B stock-repurchase plan. Comcast shares are up 7% in after-hours trading — an all-time high — while GE is up about 3%. “Our decision to acquire GE’s ownership is driven by our sense of optimism for the future prospects of NBCUniversal and our desire to capture future value that we hope to create for our shareholders,” CEO Brian Roberts says. The cable giant will finance the GE buyout with $11.4B billion of cash on hand, $4.0B of subsidiary senior unsecured notes it will issue to GE, $2.0B of borrowings, and $725M of subsidiary preferred stock it will issue to GE. In addition to the stock purchase, Comcast agreed to pay $1.4B for the NBCUniversal headquarters in New York at 30 Rockefeller Plaza as well as CNBC’s facilities in New Jersey.
Prior to the new agreement, GE could have required Comcast to buy half of its 49% NBCU stake beginning at the end of July 2014, and the remaining half beginning in January 2018.