Opportunity Knocks: Vice Media Seeks Hedge Fund Investors

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One would not expect hedge funds to be particularly fertile ground for the CEO of a startup media company to plow when looking for new funding. But what one doesn’t expect is what Vice Media CEO Shane Smith seeks to deliver.

Monday’s New York Post reports that Smith spent the past weekend trying to convince hedge funds and other deep-pocketed investors to invest in Vice Media. According to the Post, the company is seeking a financing round of $400 million at a previous valuation of $4 billion for the millennial-focused media firm.

Other reports say that Vice is looking for funds to get into the scripted programming business, a much more cash-intensive racket than podcasts and reality-show programming.

But are hedge funds likely to be persuaded to invest? In the fourth quarter of 2016, according to a report from FactSet, of the top 50 equity holdings of the top 50 hedge funds, the only pure play media companies that make the list are Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) and Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX). Each accounts for just 0.4% of the combined portfolios of the top 50 funds.

According to Bloomberg, the consumer discretionary sector, which includes media stocks, has added 4.8% in the past three months and 6.1% for the year to date. Media industry stocks are up 10.5% in the past three months and up 8.5% for the year.

In Vice Media’s favor, then, are industry growth and its startup status. While $4 billion is solidly in unicorn territory, the company has decided to hold off on a public offering. CEO Smith has already said there is going to be a “bloodbath” of consolidation in the industry and that can only mean that growing media companies are going to become more valuable, both as public offering prospects and potential acquisitions.

The potential for a big payoff for a relatively modest investment may be too enticing for hedgies to resist. All Smith has to do is convince them that he’s got the plan and the jump.