After some doubt that bidding interest would be sufficient to bring the FCC's broadcast incentive spectrum auction to a close, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has confirmed the threshold was hit today.
That means with requirements satisfied ($17.65B in net proceeds as of round 2), the forward auction will conclude in the current stage (Stage 4).
Bidding will go on (resuming at 10 a.m. tomorrow) until there's no excess demand in any of the markets, and it will be followed by an assignment phases where winning wireless bidders can bid for specific blocks of spectrum.
The benefits of running an incentive auction are "indisputable," Wheeler says: "We will repurpose 70 MHz of high-value, completely clear low-band spectrum for mobile broadband on a nationwide basis.
"On top of that, 14 MHz of new unlicensed spectrum -– the test bed for wireless innovation -– will be available for consumer devices and new services. The auction will provide $10.05 billion to broadcast television licensees who participated and billions towards deficit reduction."
The FCC's broadcast incentive wireless spectrum auction is winding to a close -- and it's a less ambitious close than expected, as the agency has been lowering the price and size of the sale with bidders in short supply.
The agency will now pay no more than $10B for some local broadcast licenses. That's vs. a reverse auction price set at $86.4B by the FCC last summer. So the auction may be successful in repacking spectrum for better use, but broadcasters hoping for a windfall might end up sorely disappointed.
“It’s simple: The broadcasters showed up, and the carriers didn’t,” says TV station rep Preston Padden.
Today brings a fourth round of bidding, but if demand doesn't match license supply (as it hasn't recently), the round could last just a few hours. Conversely, bidders who have been hiding their cards may act, with the prospect that the forward auction could close in this round.
The last round of bidding ended with $19.7B in bids, about half of what the FCC needs to close the sale.
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.
Ultimately, the move may not mean much, with Chairman Tom Wheeler set to leave the agency Jan. 20. The FCC isn't taking any enforcement action (which would be lengthy in scope) against either carrier.
Sponsored data programs at those companies can cause harm "by unreasonably discriminating in favor of select downstream providers, especially their own affiliates."
Senior Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai -- expected by many to serve as interim chairman with a GOP majority as soon as next week -- says the new staff report "does not reflect the views of the majority of commissioners," suggesting a possible reversal of course after the inauguration.
"There continues to be some concern that Verizon (VZ +0.1%) won't go ahead with the purchase of Yahoo's (YHOO +1.8%) core business because of the two huge hacks that took place," according to CNBC's David Faber.
"I'm being told right now that they're still gathering information on usage - that is... that the Yahoo side - is going to present it to Verizon saying 'here's where things stand.' Did we really see a decline in usage as a result of the hacks or not."
"The likelihood is still that this deal occurs. Will Verizon get a price cut? Why wouldn't they give it a shot. Will they be able to? We'll see."
In new proxy materials submitted to the SEC, Yahoo (YHOO +0.3%) has revealed that the company that will remain after core assets are sold to Verizon (VZ -1.1%) will be called Altaba.
That's the entity that will hold $36B in shares of Alibaba (BABA +0.9%) after Verizon takes most of the rest.
Following the closing, Marissa Mayer and others will resign from a board that will shrink to five members: Tor Braham, Eric Brandt, Catherine Friedman, Thomas McInerney and Jeffey Smith, with Brandt serving as chairman.
At closing, Mayer will leave along with co-founder David Filo, Eddy Hartenstein, Richard Hill, Jane Shaw and Maynard Webb (who will become chairman emeritus).
"For all of Yahoo's flaws, you're not going to find a property that has a billion users that you are going to pick up for [less than] $5B," says A.T. Kearney's Greg Portell, pointing to ad tech's key to the play. "The deal's economics were good at the start of this. So, if Verizon is able to knock off a billion dollars and get protection against user data exposure, it's better for them."
"There are not a lot of media properties on the planet that have a billion user accounts and leading categories," says CFRA's Scott Kessler, who notes the massive data breach actually proved Yahoo's massive scale.
Verizon could be hard pressed to prove that Yahoo's worth declined due to breaches that occurred a few years ago.
Verizon (VZ +0.1%) executive Marni Walden didn't move much from a previous stance on her company's deal to acquire the core Internet business of Yahoo (YHOO +2.9%), characterizing Verizon as "unsure" about the deal.
Speaking at Citi's Internet, Media and Telecommunications Conference, Walden said "I can't sit here today and say with confidence one way or another because we still don't know."
That puts some outsize importance on the revelations of two massive data breaches at Yahoo, since she says the merits of the deal still make sense (a stance she had taken at a WSJ conference in October). On Oct. 26, she said "We're hoping that in the next 60 days or less that we can have an outcome."
Top 10 Holdings as of 11/30/2016: Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM): 5.21072%, AT&T Inc (T): 5.16758%, Chevron Corp (CVX): 4.08907%, Verizon Communications Inc (VZ): 4.0269%, General Electric Co (GE): 3.47175%, Procter & Gamble Co (PG): 3.00826%, Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT): 2.9326%, Pfizer Inc (PFE): 2.72637%, Philip Morris International Inc (PM): 2.54288%, International Business Machines Corp (IBM): 2.39209%
Top 10 Holdings as of 11/30/2016: Apple Inc (AAPL): 6.41774%, Microsoft Corp (MSFT): 5.02091%, Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM): 3.79949%, General Electric Co (GE): 2.95312%, Wells Fargo & Co (WFC): 2.57416%, AT&T Inc (T): 2.47394%, Bank of America Corporation (BAC): 2.31355%, Procter & Gamble Co (PG): 2.28382%, Verizon Communications Inc (VZ): 2.10788%, Amazon.com Inc (AMZN): 2.06714%
Verizon (VZ +2.3%) has a number of M&A prospects ahead that might prove as catalysts to improve its position, Citigroup writes in an upgrade to Buy.
The market may be getting cautious on the telecom's upside potential, but a prospective lighter regulatory touch from the incoming government could set up a number of scenarios in which Verizon could benefit, says analyst Michael Rollins.
Aside from its plans to acquire the core of Yahoo (YHOO +0.6%) early this year, Verizon could target Dish Network (DISH +3%), Rollins says. But strategic ties could be built between Verizon and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) as well as with Charter Communications (CHTR -0.8%), Reinhardt Krause notes.
"Verizon is pursuing growth in three categories (Internet of Things, digital media, and 5G) that are somewhat small today, but can eventually contribute to revenue growth and value," Rollins writes. "We don't believe Verizon is getting credit for the investments to date and see a bull case emerging for 5G."
Rollins has a price target of $60, implying 10% upside.
Alibaba (BABA +0.3%) shares are sitting a bit above the flat line today following word that it's close to gaining $1.2B in funding from an investor group for its on-demand services unit.
The unit, Koubei, deals in local service including food delivery. The group of first-time investors reportedly includes Silver Lake Management along with China Investment Corp.
The retailing giant also says it's taking steps including setting an advisory board to address intellectual property enforcement, following the return of its Taobao marketplace to the U.S. Trade Representative's "notorious markets" list after four years off.
Alibaba's 20% three-month decline has also hit Yahoo (YHOO +0.4%), which holds a 15% stake, Reinhardt Krause notes. Yahoo has declined almost 10% over the same period, and is back near its level when Verizon (VZ -0.2%) announced a $4.83B acquisition deal.
With a day left to spare, the European Union has given its blessing to Verizon's (VZ +0.3%) $4.8B deal to acquire the core business of Yahoo (YHOO +0.2%).
The deal "would not raise any competition concerns given the companies' moderate market positions, the limited increments brought by the proposed transaction and the presence of a number of strong players providing such services," said a panel on mergers and takeovers.
Verizon already owns one of Yahoo's historical rivals in AOL, but the panel believes a large amount of user data will still be available to the market after the deal.
Most Note 7s have been exchanged or refunded, but Samsung -- concerned about safety hazards after wide reports of battery fires -- said it would begin distributing an update to kill the phones.
The other carriers in the Big Four (T, S, TMUS) agreed to send the update, and Verizon initially held out citing not wanting to leave its customers hanging without emergency communication -- but has now acceded, and will distribute the kill switch on Jan. 5.
Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) has dropped in recent minutes, now down 4.9%, on word that Verizon (NYSE:VZ) is now considering scrapping its $4.83B deal for the Internet pioneer.
Yahoo yesterday disclosed a security breach that it believes compromised information on more than a billion user accounts. That breach is thought to be separate from a previously disclosed incursion affecting half a billion accounts, and reports that Yahoo scanned thousands of customers' e-mails on behalf of government intelligence services.