Federal antitrust authorities have officially cleared Comcast's sale of its shares of the A&E network to the Walt Disney Company and the Hearst Corporation, the Federal Trade Commission has announced.
The $3.03 billion deal will involve cash and a note issued by A&E. Disney and Hearst will each control half of the company, which Comcast picked up as part of its 2011 purchase of a controlling interest in NBC Universal.
It had a 15.8 percent share in the cable channel.
With the sale of Comcast's stake, A&E now has a valuation of $20 billion, a clear indication of the high premium that investors put on cable channels with their strong advertising and retransmission revenues.
As a minority shareholder, Comcast had the option to sell its stake in the company, which was created after the 2009 merger of A&E and Lifetime, which Comcast also owns.
In return for selling A&E, Comcast gets cash that it can use to bolster NBC's flagging primetime line-up or acquire a larger interest in NBC Universal. Comcast hopes it can buy out General Electric's stake in the entertainment company by 2014.