Time Warner-Fox Deal Raises Other Media Merger Possibilities

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Reports Wednesday morning that Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (NASDAQ: FOXA) made an $85 per share offer to acquire Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) sent shares of Time Warner soaring in Wednesday morning trading. The total value of the deal was around $80 billion, and according to the reports the offer was first made verbally in June and then in writing earlier this month. Time Warner has “curtly” rejected the offer, according to sources cited by The New York Times.

At Tuesday’s closing price of $71.01, Time Warner’s market cap is around $62.6 billion. How Fox mastermind Rupert Murdoch planned to pay $80 billion for Time Warner is a reasonable question, but a combination of new Fox stock and cash borrowed at today’s low rates is the most likely answer. And with the Federal Reserve making more noises about a return to positive interest rates, we might be on the lookout for more offers like this. Here is a look at some of the other players.

The most valuable of the entertainment companies is Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS), which has a market cap of around $149 billion and owns both the lucrative Stars Wars and Marvel Comics franchises. To say nothing of the famous Mouse and the ABC and ESPN networks. Disney shares traded down less than 1% Wednesday, indicating that investors consider the company a more likely acquirer than a target. That is a reasonable assumption.

ALSO READ: Why Disney Shares May Be Headed Up to $100, With or Without Star Wars

Could Disney go shopping for, say, Paramount Studios, currently included in the Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAB) stable? Viacom’s market cap is around $36 billion, just higher than the nearly $34 billion value of CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS). Or could Viacom try to pick up CBS? Viacom’s shares were up more than 4% and it looks to us more like a target than a buyer. Same with CBS, where the stock price is up 1.5%.

And then there is Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) and its Sony Pictures Entertainment group. Activist investor Daniel Loeb, head of hedge fund Third Point, last year suggested that Sony spin off 15% to 20% of the entertainment company’s U.S. assets and cut back on expenses at the studio. Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai told Variety in February, “I’m not even entertaining the notion of selling our entertainment assets.”

Despite Hirai’s comments, if the belt-tightening the company has introduced does not produce better revenues and higher profits, a spin-off or a sale of the movie business could be a real option. Sony’s market cap is under $18 billion, making it an even more appealing target, and its shares were trading higher by nearly 1.5% Wednesday morning.

One other possibility is privately held Univision Communications. The Spanish-language network is owned by a consortium of private equity firms under the name Broadcasting Media Partners. Both CBS and Time Warner are said to have taken a look at the company and decided to pass, likely due to Univision’s content-sharing deal with Grupo Televisa SAB (NYSE: TV), which currently collects 12% of Univision’s gross revenues and will see that share grow to 18% in 2018.

ALSO READ: FCC Names Power Lineups to Review Big Media Mergers

Time Warner shares were up about 16% in the noon hour Wednesday to $82.34, after posting a new 52-week high of $84.40 earlier in the morning. The stock’s 52-week low is $57.59.

Twenty-First Century Fox shares were down about more than 4.5%, at $33.55 in a 52-week range of $29.42 to $36.43.