Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia, said it would finance the deal with $11.4 billion of cash on hand, $4 billion in debt owed to GE, $2 billion from its own credit lines and $725 million in preferred stock issued to GE. In issuing new debt notes to GE, Comcast is able to lock in today's historically low interest rates. It also gives a use for the $5.3 billion it raised from the sale of wireless spectrum to Verizon and its stake in the A&E TV networks to Disney and Hearst last year.
Along with the deal announcement, Comcast reported its quarterly results a day early, saying earnings rose 18 percent to $1.52 billion, or 56 cents per share, in the final three months of 2012. Excluding a favorable income tax adjustment, adjusted earnings came to 52 cents per share, falling short of the 54 cents per share expected by analysts polled by FactSet. Revenue rose 6 percent to $15.94 billion, also slightly below the $16.01 billion analysts were expecting.
Comcast lost just 7,000 video subscribers in the quarter, the best result in at least five years, ending the year with 22 million.
Roberts said that if it weren't for Superstorm Sandy, Comcast would have added video subscribers for the first time in many years.
Comcast also raised its annual dividend 20 percent to 78 cents per share and vowed to buy back another $2 billion in shares this year.
The late Tuesday announcement sent shares of both companies up in aftermarket trading. They continued their ascents in Wednesday's premarket session, with Comcast rising 8 percent and GE adding 3 percent.
GE's history with NBC goes back to 1919, when it co-founded the Radio Corporation of America. RCA created NBC in 1926 as the nation's first radio network, figuring that people would buy its radios if they had interesting things to listen to. RCA took full ownership of NBC in 1932.