When it comes to suitors for T-Mobile (TMUS -0.2%) -- linked by analysts to some increasing deal talk to come with the end of the FCC's spectrum auction -- nobody may be a match for a SoftBank-backed Sprint (S +0.5%), New Street Research says.
That deal would still be challenging, though, as debt-heavy SoftBank (OTCPK:SFTBY -1.7%) would need a lot of cash, and T-Mobile's value has only gotten higher -- about $48B after shares ran up nearly 50% in 2016.
But that cash could provide a "knockout" bid of $69B (including $22B in equity) outside of synergies, according to analyst Jonathan Chaplin.
That's a bid that a cableco like Comcast (CMCSA -0.3%) or Charter (CHTR +2.6%) or even Dish Network (DISH -0.2%) would have trouble matching, though T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom (OTCQX:DTEGY +0.4%) might prefer that kind of buyer to Sprint. "In this scenario, we assume an offer price of $80 per share," said Chaplin; that's a 40% premium to T-Mobile's closing price today.
More sources are stirring up talk about a big Verizon (VZ +0.4%) move into cable, with a big purchase reportedly on CEO Lowell McAdam's mind.
The New York Post hears that McAdam was telling friends at the Consumer Electronics Show that he's angling toward a cable deal to answer moves from AT&T (T +0.2%) -- and that the targets would be one of cable's top two, Comcast (CMCSA -0.2%) or Charter (CHTR +1%). "Altice (OTCPK:ATCEY) is too small," a source told the Post.
"They need it for 5G," says another, looking to wireless firms' ambitions to provide a phone/TV/data alternative to major MSOs.
McAdam is said to be obsessed with distribution, and cable may provide a better route than the FiOS network it largely sold off to Frontier Communications.
Comcast (CMCSA +0.6%) has acquired Watchwith to enhance search and discovery on its X1 platform with the help of data.
Watchwith has built a video metadata platform designed to offer deeper search by identifying what's happening inside a program -- including memorable scenes, or which actors are appearing on screen -- rather than the more basic information about a program (stars, release date).
Watchwith has joined the CoMPASS unit at Comcast that has been pursuing metadata, search, personalization and recommendation services for Comcast's offerings.
The move makes Comcast a deeper metadata player, a space where TiVo and Nielsen's Gracenote are key movers.
Sprint (S +7.2%) is partnering with Niantic to turn its more than 10.5K U.S. locations into PokeStops and Gyms, beginning Dec. 12.
As for sector consolidation, yesterday's meeting between Softbank's chief and Trump, and Softbank's (OTCPK:SFTBY +5.7%) promised $50B U.S. investment could foreshadow a Sprint/T-Mobile (TMUS +3.9%) merger, says Oppenheimer's Tim Horan.
The objective of a tie-up between the two, says Horan, would be "quad-play offering" to attack cable's "triple-play." T-Mobile, he says, is the "king maker" in the process thanks to its combined spectrum portfolio.
Look for Comcast (CMCSA +0.6%) or Charter (CHTR +3%) to make competing bids, but they'd have to be big numbers to win out over Sprint.
That stake would likely be 15-30%, sources said. Control of Euronews -- originally conceived by state-owned continental channels as a "European CNN" -- would still rest with Egyptian billionare Naguib Sawiris, who holds 53%.
The move could give NBC News a foothold in Europe even as it works to strengthen Euronews' offerings.
While Time Warner is trading lower as investors digest a slimmer chance of a buyout by AT&T under a Trump administration, Sprint (NYSE:S) -- a company long thought to again become a merger prospect after a change in the White House -- is up 12.5% and hitting two-year highs today.
Its oft-discussed merger matchup partner, T-Mobile (NASDAQ:TMUS) is up 3.8%.
Meanwhile, changes are likely coming to the FCC, Wells Fargo argues: It will at least be more conservative, if not working under new leadership soon; expecting Chairman Tom Wheeler to stay a full term is "no longer realistic."
"If the rhetoric of those surrounding Trump’s campaign rings true, we can expect a Republican FCC to make a big push to roll back some of the regulations put in place under President Obama such as the Title II/Net Neutrality rules," writes analyst Jennifer Fritzsche. "There may also be a push to roll back some or all of what the FCC just did on privacy."
"It’s unclear whether Chairman Wheeler will be able to act on the open items related to Business Data Services or set top box reform before he departs and if he does not, some suggest a Republican FCC will reverse course on these two items. There is also a big question on how a Trump FCC will view transactions including the recently announced T/TWX merger and the LVLT/CTL transaction."
The day after it eked out a gain following an earnings miss, World Wrestling Entertainment (NYSE:WWE) gave up 5.8% today as analysts came in with downgrades.
Shares had finished up 0.3% after opening to the downside yesterday. Today, Wells Fargo downgraded shares to Market Perform, from Outperform, and Pacific Crest downgraded to Sector Weight from Overweight and pulled its price target. Deutsche Bank, meanwhile, downgraded to Sell.
The question of M&A came up (spurred, as it usually is recently, by AT&T/Time Warner) on the company's earnings call, put by BTIG's Brandon Ross. "Again, we're open to anything," says CEO Vince McMahon, "so it's not a question of if the right deal came along, it's one of those things where you do, to do any good reviews, we're listening."
"The old 'content is king' is true, maybe truer today than it's ever been. So we're open for business," he said.
FBN's Robert Routh has a few ideas ("admittedly only pure speculation") about strategic options: "Given the existing partnership with NBCUniversal it seems Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) could be a logical fit for WWE, as could MSG (NYSE:MSGN) or possibly even Live Nation (NYSE:LYV)."
With AT&T beginning a long journey to acquire Time Warner, is T-Mobile (TMUS +0.7%) the next big acquisition target in the media/telecom space? Analysts are talking up the carrier's prospects after it logged another successful quarter.
"The takeout target over the next 12 months has got to be T-Mobile," says New Street Research's Spencer Kurn, noting potential suitors in Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) -- which is exercising a clause with Verizon to launch MVNO service -- as well as Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) and America Movil (NYSE:AMX).
Dish has a lot of spectrum but no wireless business -- and it's lost a potential buyer in AT&T, which now has its hands full with Time Warner, notes BTIG's Walt Piecyk.
Rival Sprint (S -1.8%) could be a takeover target as well, as CEO Marcelo Claure noted "we've had a lot of bankers placing more calls than usual over the weekend" in yesterday's earnings call.
AT&T's (T -3%) interest in Time Warner (TWX +7.8%) progressed quickly from "had talks" to "advanced talks" and now a deal could be set by Monday -- which Bloomberg says is due to a sped-up timetable caused by Bloomberg's initial report.
That's because AT&T is said to be concerned that the publicity could allow other interested suitors like Apple (AAPL -0.4%) or Alphabet (GOOG +0.3%, GOOGL +0.3%) to jump in -- and indeed Apple is said to be monitoring the deal talks, after it made its own approach to Time Warner a few months ago, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Those talks involved execs under Apple chief Tim Cook and didn't get beyond a preliminary stage. A source tells the WSJ that Google doesn't look interested in an offer for Time Warner.
But the story of the deal points out just how much behind-the-scenes strategic talk is going on in the media/telecom spaces, as companies vie to be among the new leaders in an upended, converged digital media climate.
Sumner Redstone was said to be considering not only the merger of CBS (CBS +2.1%) and Viacom (VIA +2.7%, VIAB +2.8%) that he's already pushing for, but also to combine that entity with Time Warner.
Meanwhile, Comcast (CMCSA -0.5%) could join another company to get involved, the WSJ says, though that makes more sense if Time Warner's open to being parted out.
Unlikely to join in this time: Twenty-First Century Fox (FOX +2.2%, FOXA +2.2%), whose own pursuit of Time Warner failed in 2014 at $85/share, and Walt Disney (DIS +1.1%).
The idea of one-stop shopping especially appeals considering the older audience of CBS combined with younger Viacom brands including Comedy Central and MTV. Buyers would benefit from complementary audiences, ad products and possible discounts if they do bulk purchasing.
“Viacom is the scrappy kid in the playground willing to try anything once and CBS is the tried and true elder statesman," says Interpublic Group's David Cohen. "The juxtaposition of these two is actually quite exciting and something I’d very much like to see.”
Despite continuing ratings challenges at Viacom's networks, the company would get a boost from a combined upfront sales event with CBS, making it more similar to the approach of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Twenty-First Century Fox (FOX, FOXA). "“It creates a direct competitor to NBCU like tomorrow,” says one buyer.
The move means the cableco takes 100% control of Wells Fargo Center and the Flyers, as well as the Spectra businesses. The National Hockey League is meeting tomorrow to sign off on the Flyers portion of the deal.
Snider passed away after a long battle with cancer in April.
He "planned for this transition and, thanks to his thoughtful approach on succession, Comcast Spectacor is in a strong position," says Comcast CEO Brian Roberts.
"Dave Scott was hand-picked three years ago by Ed to lead Comcast Spectacor and has done a terrific job as its president and CEO. He will continue in that capacity, overseeing all of the company’s various businesses," Roberts said.
Paul Holmgren and Ron Hextall will remain president and general manager of the Flyers respectively, and John Page will remain president of Wells Fargo Center.
Comcast had taken a majority stake in the company in 1996.
DreamWorks' feature animation group will be run by co-presidents of Feature Animation Bonnie Arnold and Mireille Soria, execs that DWA chief Jeffrey Katzenberg boosted in February to refocus the studio's output. They'll report to Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley; Margie Cohn will lead a combined DreamWorks and Universal TV animation business.
Combined Universal/DreamWorks games, digital and consumer products will be led by NBCUniversal Brand Development President Vince Klaseus.
As expected, Katzenberg will become Chairman of DreamWorks New Media, overseeing the company's shares in AwesomenessTV and NOVA. He walks away with a cash-out package of a whopping $391M, on the strength of 10.2M shares and options in the studio.
Wang Jianlin, of Dalian Wanda Group, tells Reuters that after acquiring a pair of non-production companies, he'd like to take over one of the major studios: Twentieth Century Fox (FOX, FOXA), Warner Brothers (NYSE:TWX), Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS), Universal Pictures (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Columbia (NYSE:SNE), along with Paramount (VIA, VIAB), for which Wanda was said to be nearing a $4B purchase of 49%.
Paramount is certainly in play, with flagging performance and a parent (Viacom) struggling with that and its TV business. But that's not all Wang has his eye on: "We are interested not only in Paramount, but all of them. If one of the Big Six would be willing to be sold to us, we would be interested."
That's a "necessary step" to building a "real movie empire," Wang says. "Only the six are real global film companies, while the rest are not."
Wanda bought control of production company Legendary Entertainment for $3.5B this year and wants to triple revenue from its cultural division to 150B yuan ($22.6B) by 2020.
The conglomerate also controls theater firm AMC Entertainment, and with the completion of acquisitions of Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group and Carmike Cinemas, would control 15% of global box office revenues.
Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBGI -1.4%) has expressed interest in buying the Weather Channel TV network for as much as $100M in talks that have been longstanding but recently heated up again, The Wall Street Journal reports.
IBM had bought the digital assets of the company last October from its owners -- NBCUniversal (CMCSA -1%) and private-equity firms Bain Capital and Blackstone Group (BX -2%). But ownership held on to the linear TV network.
That digital deal came in for more than $2B; if the TV operation sells for $100M as expected, it will have been a significant loser for ownership, which bought it in 2008 for about $3.5B.
Level 3 Communications (NYSE:LVLT) closed today up 3.5% after touching a 52-week high on news that it's looking into strategic alternatives -- which could include a buyer from outside telecom.
Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is speculated to be a possibility among suitors, but so is Google (GOOG, GOOGL), with whom Level 3 signed an interconnection agreement earlier this year.
Citigroup analysts Michael Rollins and Neth Wiedemann can't confirm the reports, but they love the stock ("top pick within our coverage group given its growth, financial flexibility, valuation, and strategic optionality") and float another candidate: rival Zayo Group (NYSE:ZAYO).
Zayo could itself be an attractive target for a cableco, but "We also would not dismiss the possibility that Level 3 and Zayo could consider a merger scenario to become a larger competitor for the enterprise market against the incumbents AT&T and Verizon Communications."