GE set to buy Vivendi's NBC Universal stake for $5.8bn

General Electric has agreed to buy the French media conglomerate Vivendi's 20 per cent stake in NBC Universal for $5.8bn (£3.5bn), paving the way for the US company to sell control of the TV and movie company to Comcast.

The move, which is expected to be confirmed in the next few days, lessens the uncertainty surrounding GE's planned sale of a 51 per cent stake in NBC Universal to Comcast, the largest US cable provider.

That deal, valued at $30bn, would make Comcast one of the largest US entertainment groups, rivalling its former takeover target, the Walt Disney Company. NBC Universal was formed in 2004 after Vivendi agreed to merge its Vivendi Universal Entertainment business with GE's NBC.

Comcast wants NBC Universal largely for its cable channels such as Bravo and CNBC. NBC Universal also spans the NBC and Spanish-language Telemundo TV networks, the Universal Pictures film studio and Universal theme parks in Orlando and Los Angeles.