GE says no plan to sell NBC Universal

BEIJING Mon Aug 4, 2008 4:35am EDT

Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric leads a discussion with business leaders at an Ecomagination news conference at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California May 24, 2007. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric leads a discussion with business leaders at an Ecomagination news conference at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California May 24, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

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BEIJING (Reuters) - General Electric Co (GE.N) has no plans to sell its NBC Universal media unit and is on track to double its China annual revenue to $10 billion by 2010, a top executive said on Monday.

Some investors have said they would like Chief Executive Jeff Immelt to consider selling NBC after the Olympics because it is growing more slowly than GE's infrastructure businesses.

But Beth Comstock, GE's chief marketing officer, told Reuters: "I think Jeff Immelt has been very clear ... saying to the media, to internal audiences and to investors that he sees NBC as a part of GE's future."

NBC, which is 80 percent-owned by GE, is broadcasting the August 8-24 Games in the United States. France's Vivendi (VIV.PA) holds the remaining 20 percent of the media company.

"We didn't look at it just as advertising revenue. We thought it could also be a way to build a relationship with the city of Beijing," Comstock said of GE's Olympic tie-up.

GE has generated $1.7 billion of total revenues from Olympics-related business, of which $1 billion is from advertisements for NBC and $700 million from other GE divisions, she said. Her predecessor, Daniel Henson, said in July 2007 that GE expected $500-$600 million worth of revenue from the Olympics.

GE generated $150 million of the extra business by dangling the Beijing Games as an incentive for its sales teams, Comstock added.

Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE, the second-largest U.S. company by market capitalization, is still targeting $10 billion annual revenue in China by 2010, she said. GE had sales in China last year of about $5 billion.

"I just met Nani Beccalli and Mark Norbom this morning, and that's their target," she said, referring to the president and CEO of GE International and the president of GE China.

As one of the "top sponsors" for the International Olympic Committee, GE spent "a little over" $100 million for a 6-year contract with the organization, starting with the Turin Winter Games in 2006, Comstock disclosed.

"What the Olympics has allowed us to do as a company is to get much better selling across businesses and packaging," she said. "This obviously has been a great venue for a lot of our Ecomagination products."

GE has been using the Games as a chance to show off its energy-efficient "Ecomagination" line, and says it is contributing to 400 infrastructure projects in and around Beijing.

Comstock, who joined NBC in 1986 and moved into her current role earlier this year, said the Games would have a lasting impact on GE.

"The Olympics was a good opportunity for us to learn how to cross-sell better," she said.

($=6.8466 yuan)

(Reporting by Michael Wei; Editing by Alan Wheatley & Ian Geoghegan)

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