Is Meredith Buying Time Inc or Not?

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Meredith Corp. (NYSE: MDP), the publishing, database and television station owner, has been described in several media reports as the most likely buyer of Time Inc. (NYSE: TIME). However, there are reports that the talks have stalled over valuation, which many experts believe will need to be above $20 a share to get the approval of Time’s board.

Bloomberg reported on April 11:

Meredith Corp.’s weeks-long pursuit of an acquisition of Time Inc. has advanced into late-stage discussions, according to people familiar with the matter.

While the slow pace has frustrated some involved in the process, a deal is still seen as more likely than not, though there’s no timetable for an agreement to be reached, said two of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. Time’s board met Tuesday for an update on the sale talks, one person said.

On the 12th, Reuters reported:

U.S. media group Meredith Corp has made a preliminary acquisition offer to Time Inc that fell short of the price expectations of the publisher of Sports Illustrated and Fortune magazines, according to people familiar with the matter.

The gap in valuation expectations could represent a setback to Time Inc’s efforts to sell itself. It comes after an investor group led by former music executive Edgar Bronfman Jr abandoned its pursuit of Time Inc in March, following a $1.8 billion offer it made late last year.

It is not clear why the $20 threshold is so important. The Bronfman Group bid $18 a share. One issue may be that Time’s stock price rose to $20.40 on buyout speculation, and the board does not want to take a figure much less than that.

If there is no deal, Time’s share price will drop, based on almost every assessment of the situation. Speculation is that the stock would drop to $15. It traded as low as $12.50 in November. Of course, a portion of the price support will depend on Time’s first-quarter earnings report. The consensus estimate is that Time will lose $0.14 a share on revenue of $642 million.