Why Comcast May Become Too Leveraged Financially If It Buys Sky

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The merger and acquisition news flow this week has been dominated by Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA) jumping in line to acquire Sky in the United Kingdom. It has offered a whopping $31 billion in equity value to acquire Sky. This news has created a big stir in the world of media and communications, but there is another risk that perhaps this could put Comcast in a less attractive safety position.

The proposal was an all-cash offer, and it is expected to take Comcast’s international share of total revenues to about 25% from about 9% now. While 24/7 Wall St. covered this in detail, the concern is that perhaps Comcast may become an overleveraged company if it completes this acquisition.

According to a report from S&P late on Wednesday, Comcast’s A- corporate credit rating was placed on CreditWatch with negative implications pending clarity of this transaction. The citation for the negative credit view was the potential for a sustained higher leverage. A potential bidding war also could lead to a higher purchase price, and that would no longer support S&P’s current credit rating.

S&P sees a high chance that Fox will increase its bid for Sky. If Comcast successfully bids, then S&P will evaluate its current three-times threshold for the rating.

While the S&P note came after some concerns already had been made by outside firms, the reality is that Wall Street has viewed this potential Sky acquisition offer in a range varying from confusion to outright disapproval. That confusion was demonstrated by a gain of 33 cents to $36.54 on Thursday morning, but Comcast shares were down 7.3% at $36.66 on Tuesday after news of this deal broke.

Investors should consider that each 1% drop in Comcast shares is big money now. After all, its market cap is $170 billion and that is a massive number, even after the big post-announcement drop.

As far as Comcast’s balance sheet, the company’s total liabilities as of December 31, 2017, were $118.34 billion. Of that amount, $59.4 billion was in long-term debt, $24.25 billion was in deferred taxes and current liabilities were $21.56 billion. Comcast also generated $84.5 billion in 2017 revenues and net income was $22.7 billion. The company paid out almost $3 billion in dividends in 2017, as well as $3 billion in interest payments.

Perhaps the biggest fear isn’t just that Comcast’s balance sheet would get too leveraged. If the company was overly worried about that, then they might just make their customers pay for the buyout. That would be by raising the price of your phone, cable, and internet bill.

Comcast has a 52-week trading range of $34.78 to $44.00 and a consensus analyst price target from Thomson Reuters of $49.08.