GE's NBC Universal eyeing studio major DreamWorks

MUMBAI: General Electric's NBC Universal is in talks to buy out the privately held, live-action film studio DreamWorks, according to agency news reports.

Reports also stated that Universal was considering acquiring the studio founded in 1994 by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

The board of General Electric (GE), which owns NBC Universal, is scheduled to meet but it's unclear how much the company would be willing to pay for DreamWorks.

DreamWorks Animation, the animation studio that came into existence last year, is reportedly not a part of the discussions, but Universal would have the right to distribute future cartoon tiles from the company that created Shrek.

DreamWorks creations have been movies such as American Beauty and Gladiator but the studio has scaled back its plans over the years. In 1999, it abandoned plans to build a high-tech studio in Los Angeles, hived off its music division in 2004 and curtailed its TV production.

Its most recent film, The Island, which it distributed with Warner Bros., cost an estimated $122 million, according to industry tracker Box Office Mojo.

DreamWorks was founded in 1994 by three entertainment moghuls -- 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.

In 2004, the company dropped 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 international reports.

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.

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