If there is one infrastructure play in communications that would make a crown jewel of an acquisition, Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT) would fit that bill. In fact, it has for years been considered by 24/7 Wall St. a key dream target for a host of potential acquirers.
There is just one small problem (or more than a couple) in chasing the rumors and market chatter that drove shares higher on Wednesday, and that’s more than just that Level 3’s valuations are high. What investors better be considering with the stock market at all-time highs is what it would really take to acquire Level 3 and what price this would be valued at if a deal fell apart.
The impetus for buyout talk has been around would-be market reports, but not every indication was just for a sale of the company. One thing to consider is that Level 3 acquired TW Telecom in 2014 for cash and stock. That deal was valued at more than $5 billion. The company’s market cap is now $20 billion with shares at a decade high.
24/7 Wall St. reached out to the media relations department of Level 3 and the company confirmed what most investors might have expected:
We don’t comment on rumors or speculation, so we won’t be issuing a statement on this.
If the rumors end up just proving to be a buyback of shares, keep in mind that Goldman Sachs was already signaling buybacks ahead in late-2015. Cowen also previously suggested that buybacks may be coming.
Here are five considerations, along with additional outside analyst views after that, for investors to consider before they blindly chase buyout or other rumors.
1. Regulatory Approval Hurdles
The Federal Communications Commission would have a say on top of normal FTC/DOJ approvals here. Level 3 is a crown jewel asset for its communications infrastructure assets. It is no secret that communications and other segments are being policed heavily, particularly if it could be proven that it might interfere with net neutrality or might drive up costs for businesses and consumers.
2. Valuation Might Interrupt Premium Prices
Considering a $20 billion acquisition is no chump change. Also, Level 3 is valued at 32 times expected 2016 earnings and at 25 times expected 2017 earnings. It would also be valued at nearly seven times expected 2017 EBITDA, which is not exactly cheap.