Updated: Choppy Waters For Weather Channel: Time Warner Withdraws Bid; NBCU In Exclusive Talks

imageThe auction for Weather Channel hasn’t gone very smoothly, and now one of the major suitors left in the field, Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), withdrew its bid to buy it, reports Reuters, citing sources. The deadline for a new bid passed at noon EST today. Landmark Communications, the current owner of Weather, had hoped for $5 billion, but as the bid progressed with less interested buyers, the price was supposed to be around $3.5 billion. Does that mean NBC Universal (NYSE: GE), which has a bid in with Blackstone Group, now go through? More on the process on our Weather Channel auction page.

Update 1: According to Reuters, NBCU, Blackstone and Bain would divide $1.8 billion of equity roughly equally in their bid, which would be worth about $3.5 billion, including debt. Blackstone’s GSO Capital — a hedge fund firm specializing in leveraged debt — would provide about $600 million in debt.

Update 2: NBCU announced late this evening that it has entered into exclusive negotiations to buy The Weather Channel from Landmark, along with its PE partners in this bid, Blackstone and Bain. For NBC, the channel and its popular website Weather.com is a clear fit, as it already operates NBC Weather Plus, its digital weather and info service run together with its local TV affiliates.