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Weather Channel sale could come in 2 days

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Landmark Communications could announce the sale of the Weather Channel to a group made up of NBC Universal, Blackstone Group LP and Bain Capital in the next day or two, sources briefed on the matter said.

An undated screenshot of The Weather Channel's screensaver. REUTERS/PRNewsFoto

The final price on the cable network, which produces national, regional and local weather-related programs, is expected to be between $3 billion and $3.5 billion, and likely at the higher end of that range, the sources said.

The parties have been negotiating directly with Landmark since Time Warner Inc withdrew its bid two weeks ago.

There is always a small chance things could fall apart or slow down at the last minute, but absent any such unforeseen problems, the deal should be announced in the next couple days, one of the people said.

Landmark, Blackstone and Bain could not be reached for comment. NBC Universal declined to comment.

Sources have previously told Reuters the consortium would divide $1.8 billion of equity roughly equally in their bid, which would be worth about $3.5 billion, including debt.

Blackstone’s GSO Capital -- a hedge fund specializing in leveraged debt -- would provide about $600 million in debt, another source had told Reuters.

The Weather Channel network serves about 96 million U.S. subscribers and can be seen in more than 97 percent of all cable television homes.

Privately held Landmark, which put the channel up for sale along with other businesses, originally sought $5 billion for the channel, sources have said.

For General Electric Co’s NBC Universal, the Weather Channel could be combined with its own digital weather network, NBC Weather Plus.

The Weather Channel’s time-sensitive broadcasts and programming about hot-button issues on the environment have proved to be attractive to audiences and advertisers.

The Weather Channel’s website attracts about 35 million unique users each month, Landmark has said. That puts it among the Web’s 20-most-popular sites and the top destination for online weather, news and information.

Editing by Braden Reddall

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