The news a glance

Comcast to buy GE’s stake in NBC; Dell buyout faces opposition; Early retail numbers disappoint; Apple planning ‘iWatch’ device; Republicans grill Lew

Media: Comcast to buy GE’s stake in NBC

Comcast announced this week that it would pay $16.7 billion to buy General Electric’s 49 percent stake in NBCUniversal, said Amy Chozick and Brian Stelter in The New York Times. Comcast’s chief executive, Brian Roberts, said the acquisition would be completed by the end of March. “We always thought it was a strong possibility that we’d some day own 100 percent,” Roberts said. As part of the deal, Philadelphia-based Comcast will acquire the NBC studios and offices at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and CNBC’s headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. The Rockefeller Plaza office space comes with naming rights for the building, making it “possible that one of New York’s most famous landmarks, with its giant red GE sign, could soon be displaying a Comcast sign instead.”

Comcast’s eventual takeover of NBC has been expected since it first agreed to take a stake in the company in 2009, said Roger Yu in USA Today. After that deal was finalized in 2011, GE said it intended to unload its stake in the entertainment business within seven years “to shore up performance in its other divisions.” Comcast’s entertainment portfolio now includes NBC, USA, Bravo, Syfy, E, CNBC, MSNBC, Telemundo, and the Universal Pictures movie studio.

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Computers: Dell buyout faces opposition

Michael Dell’s bid to take his company private is hitting rough water, said Richard Waters in the Financial Times. The proposed $24.4 billion buyout is facing growing opposition from stakeholders, including the PC-maker’s two largest outside investors. “We believe the proposed buyout does not reflect the value of Dell, and we do not intend to support the offer as put forward,” said an executive at T. Rowe Price, Dell’s second-largest stakeholder. Southeastern Asset Management, the other major opponent to the buyout, has also signaled that it “would fight tooth and nail to defeat the leveraged buyout.”

Economy: Early retail numbers disappoint

Retail sales barely rose in January, thanks to higher taxes and fuel prices, said Lucia Mutikani in The Commerce Depart-ment said retail sales edged up just 0.1 percent after an unrevised 0.5 percent gain in December. Experts blame the virtual standstill on the expiration of a 2 percent cut in the payroll tax. Economists expect smaller paychecks and climbing gas prices to slow consumer spending throughout the first quarter of 2013.

Tech: Apple planning ‘iWatch’ device

Apple has a hot new product in the pipeline, said Jessica Lessin in The Wall Street Journal. The tech giant is “experimenting with designs for a watch-like device that would perform some functions of a smartphone.” Apple has opened talks with Foxconn, its major manufacturing partner in China, to develop the device, which would have a curved glass screen and operate on Apple’s iOS platform. As many as 100 product designers are reportedly working on the project, which some analysts have characterized as a “wearable computer.”

Treasury: Republicans grill Lew

President Obama’s nominee for Treasury secretary faced tough questions on Capitol Hill this week, said Jim Puzzanghera in the Los Angeles Times. Senate Republicans grilled Jack Lew, the outgoing White House chief of staff, about his tenure as a top Citigroup executive in the years leading up to the financial crisis, focusing on his receipt of “a $944,518 payout from Citigroup in early 2009, just days before the company received an expanded bailout.” Lew professed ignorance. “I learned a great deal about the financial products,” said Lew. “But I wasn’t designing them and I wasn’t opining on them.”

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