NBC Universal in talks to purchase independent studio's live action unit -- report.
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - General Electric's NBC Universal unit is in talks to possibly buy the live action part of independent studio DreamWorks, according to a published report.
The New York Post reports that talks are ongoing and no deal is imminent. The talks do not concern DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. (Research), which was spun off from the live action studio with an October 2004 initial public offering. The animation studio, with hits such as "Shrek," "Shrek 2" and "Madagascar," is far more successful than the live action studio.
The live action studio won the Academy Award for best picture of 1999 with "American Beauty" and in 2000 with "Gladiator." But it has fallen behind the animation studio in box-office success in recent years.
Its most recent film, "The Island," which it distributed with Warner Bros., cost an estimated $122 million, according to industry tracker Box Office Mojo. It did a disappointing $24.5 million in opening weekend worldwide box office this past weekend.
DreamWorks was founded in 1994 by three entertainment heavyweights -- director Steven Spielberg, recording industry executive David Geffen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who had headed Walt Disney Co.'s studios and now serves as CEO of DreamWorks Animation. Its initial investors included Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
Last year the company shed its music business, selling its record company to Universal for $100 million and its music publishing unit to New York-based venture capital firm Dimensional Associates for about $50 million, according to the Post.
According to an interview Geffen gave Business Week earlier this year, the live action studio is worth about $1 billion.
"The animation company has a market cap of over $4 billion and the whole company has a market cap well over $5 billion," he said in an interview published March 7. "The animation business is infinitely more profitable."
But the share price of DreamWorks has fallen since then as the company had to warn investors of disappointing DVD sales for "Shrek 2." Its market cap is about $2.3 billion today, and the company has dropped plans for a secondary sale of shares held by some of its initial investors.
DreamWorks SKG said that the comments attributed to a DreamWorks spokesperson about a potential combination with NBC Universal were not authorized. DreamWorks also said that as a matter of policy, it does not comment on such matters.
For a look at a Securities and Exchange Commission probe of DreamWorks Animation, click here.
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