Some investors like to bet on special situations. Others look to spinoffs for a little exotic action. The hardcore gamblers, however, speculate on M&A deals both before and after their announcement.
Be forewarned, statistics show that global M&A deals were down in the third quarter — $674 billion, the lowest quarterly deal flow since Q1 2016 — and the big deals over $5 billion are off 28% in the U.S. through the first nine months of the year.
“After the dealmaking boom of the past two to three years, we find executives turning their attention to maximizing the value of recent transactions, while also weighing the uncertainty in Washington on tax reform and deregulation,” stated Bill Casey, EY Americas vice chair of transaction advisory services. “We do not necessarily see this as a long-term shift in dealmaking but rather a potential tactical pause.”
Although we’ve got our work cut out for us considering CEOs are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens, here are nine M&A deals that stand a good chance of happening regardless of whether Republicans come through with a tax plan.
Potential Mergers and Acquisitions: Hasbro (HAS) and Mattel (MAT)
As I write this, it’s only a rumor, albeit a strong one. Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS) is negotiating to buy Mattel, Inc. (NASDAQ:MAT), a deal that could happen before this goes live.
It would bring together a lot of brands kids are crazy about including Nerf, Play-Doh, Transformers and Monopoly on the Hasbro side with Barbie, American Girl and Hot Wheels at Mattel.
Given brick-and-mortar toy retail is increasingly losing out to Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) or Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s (NYSE:WMT) e-commerce business, Hasbro and Mattel coming together to drive better deals with retailers make a whole lot of sense.
So, Mattel investors have to decide what to do next. Sell and regain some of 2017’s losses or hang tight expecting a better deal than $18 a share.
If you own Hasbro stock you’ve got to be excited about the prospects of a merged entity. It’s hard to imagine the Federal Trade Commission saying no to a deal like this, but I guess we’ll see.
HAS stock is definitely the one to own long-term.
Potential Mergers and Acquisitions: Disney (DIS) and Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA)
This isn’t currently on the front burner for either Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS) or Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (NASDAQ:FOXA), but they’re reported to have held discussions in recent weeks about Disney acquiring Rupert Murdoch’s entertainment businesses including the non-sports cable channels and television and film studios.
Certainly, Disney CEO Bob Iger would love to have a massive deal to finish a long and very successful career that’s lost a bit of its luster due to weakness at ESPN, a brand that was thought to be invincible.
A deal like this could cost Disney as much as $40 billion suggests Jefferies analyst John Janedis. That might seem like a lot until you consider that a number of experts thought Disney should buy Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) , a purchase that would cost more than double that number, until the Mouse went with its own streaming service.
While I think there’s still an outside chance of Disney getting back in the Netflix sweepstakes, a recent column in Quartz suggesting Disney’s interest in Fox’s movie and television assets is a way to capture some of Netflix’s customer base while retaining its own makes sense.
So, now investors need to figure out who other than Disney might benefit from buying Netflix.
Potential Mergers and Acquisitions: Apple (AAPL) and Netflix (NFLX)
It would be a bit awkward if Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) made a bid for Netflix — Disney CEO Bob Iger serves on Apple’s board — but Tim Cook is all business so I doubt he’d have any problem keeping Iger at a distance while negotiating with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.
However, before you dismiss the possibility, consider just how bad Apple’s initial foray into television production has been.
“Days before Apple Inc. planned to celebrate the release of its first TV show last spring at a Hollywood hotel, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told his deputies the fun had to wait,” stated Bloomberg Businessweek contributor Lucas Shaw in late October. “Foul language and references to vaginal hygiene had to be cut from some episodes of Carpool Karaoke, a show featuring celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, Blake Shelton, and Chelsea Handler cracking jokes while driving around Los Angeles.”
Apple doesn’t have a clue; Reed Hastings could get it up to speed in no time. However, should Apple pass on Netflix, Bob Iger would surely listen to any offers Tim Cook brings to the next board meeting.
I’d say Apple buying Netflix is more likely than it buying Disney because it gets it closer to its customers without acquiring hotels, cruise ships and theme parks.
Potential Mergers and Acquisitions: Acushnet Holdings (GOLF) and Callaway Golf (ELY)
Golf isn’t exactly growing like wildfire but in recent years Callaway Golf Co (NYSE:ELY) has managed to return itself to profitable growth and that’s a big step in the right direction. When Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE) got out of the golf equipment business in 2016, the remaining competitors thought two things.
First, how much of that business can we snag for ourselves? Secondly, we are going to have to get very good at keeping our expenses down because there isn’t going to be a lot of profits to go around. Worldwide, there’s about $4.5 billion to go around for all the golf equipment companies competing for business including Callaway and Titleist owner, Acushnet Holdings Corp (NYSE:GOLF); Nike had 5% market share or about $225 million in revenue.
Callaway has annual revenues of about $1 billion, one-third less than Acushnet, whose operating margins are slightly higher than Callaway’s at 9.6%.
Together, these two heavyweights could take the entire $225 million Nike left on the table. It’s peanuts for Nike but a big deal for these two companies. Synergies and cost savings would be a major impetus for a deal in an industry that’s never been confused for the NFL.
Potential Mergers and Acquisitions: Brookfield Property Partners (BPY) and GGP Inc (GGP)
Don’t look now but Brookfield Property Partners LP (NYSE:BPY) is making a big bet on retail real estate. Already holding 34% of GGP Inc (NYSE:GGP), America’s second-largest mall owner, BPY has offered to buy the remaining 66% it doesn’t own for $14.8 billion, or $23 per share.
The markets might not get it, but Brookfield investors have learned to trust that management knows what they’re doing. Contrarian investors to the max, Brookfield’s parent, Brookfield Asset Management Inc (NYSE:BAM), originally invested $2.5 billion in GGP in 2010 helping it emerge from bankruptcy.
“GGP is not a bunch of third-tier malls that are getting destroyed by the internet,” said Mark Rothschild, real estate analyst with Canaccord Genuity. “The malls are evolving, but they’re absolutely not disappearing.”
Paying with cash and shares in BPY, GGP investors will own 30% of the combined company. GGP investors are wise to elect to take shares rather than cash.
Potential Mergers and Acquisitions: CBS (CBS) and CNN
Admittedly, a lot’s got to happen for this one to play out.
Should AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) sell CNN (as part of Turner Broadcasting) to get the green light from the Department of Justice to acquire Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX), CBS Corporation (NYSE:CBS) should put in a bid for the cable news network.
The reason is simple: CBS battles Twenty-First Century Fox on both the sports and news front and while it has a cable sports network, it doesn’t have a cable news network. Buying CNN would give its news programs and even wider audience than they already have.
Not to mention the fact that CNN is more profitable than it’s ever been thanks to Donald Trump. In 2016, CNN made almost $1 billion; this year it’s expected to make more than that. Sure, it won’t come cheap, but CBS CEO Les Moonves won’t be afraid to pull the trigger should the opportunity arise.
Based on my M&A theory, I’d buy CBS stock over AT&T, because the latter’s going to have real debt issues no matter what it does to get onside with the DOJ while CNN would add nicely to CBS’s bottom line.
Potential Mergers and Acquisitions: Aaron’s (AAN) and Rent-A-Center (RCII)
Rent-A-Center Inc (NASDAQ:RCII), a small-cap rent-to-own retailer with locations in the U.S. and Canada, announced at the end of October that it was exploring strategic and financial alternatives for the company. Shortly after that, RCII received a conditional, non-binding offer for $13 per share from Vintage Capital Management, a Florida-based private-equity firm.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Vintage Capital owns 10.2% of Aaron’s, Inc. (NYSE:AAN), a much bigger version of Rent-A-Center. In 2014, it tried to buy Aaron’s for $2.3 billion but ended up settling for two seats on the board.
Vintage Capital’s managing director Brian Kahn is a former Aaron’s franchisee, so he understands this industry better than most. The fact that his company is now a friend of Aaron’s rather than a foe suggests a successful purchase of RCII would ultimately lead to a merger between it and Aaron’s sometime down the road.
While Aaron’s announced lower-than-expected earnings Oct. 27, it’s definitely the stronger company. If you simply want to speculate, I’d buy Rent-A-Center, but if you’re looking for the better long-term play, I’d go with Aaron’s and wait for things to unfold.
Potential Mergers and Acquisitions: Jab Holdings and Dunkin Brands (DNKN)
I’ll be honest, of all the players in the coffee wars, I thought Dunkin Brands Group Inc (NYSE:DNKN) would perform the worst since its 2012 IPO at $19 a share.
I was wrong. As of November 13, if you bought DNKN shares in January 2012, they’re up 197% for an annualized total return of just less than 20%. Nice. However, it looks like DNKN investors could get another little bump in 2018.
Benzinga reported Nov. 2 that JAB Holdings, the privately-held company behind a slew of coffee-related M&A deals over the past couple of years that’s seen it acquire Keurig Green Mountain, Panera Bread, Krispy Kreme, and much more is looking to acquire it sometime in 2018.
Before you go out and buy DNKN stock it’s important to understand that it might not make sense for JAB Holdings to buy Dunkin.
“Dunkin’ would be a very expensive buy for JAB and it is far from clear that the synergies would pay for such an extravagant purchase,” Global Data managing director Neil Saunders said recently.
With an enterprise value of almost 17 times EBITDA, DNKN stock is definitely not cheap.
Potential Mergers and Acquisitions: Entercom Communications (ETM) and Another Radio Broadcaster
Is it too early to speculate on the next radio merger? Entercom Communications Corp. (NYSE:ETM) and CBS got the green light from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Nov. 9 approving the merger of the smaller Entercom with CBS Radio, a combination that will create the second-largest radio broadcaster in America with 235 stations in the top 50 markets across the country.
Let’s face it; radio broadcasting is a wounded industry with few profits or prospects. However, Entercom’s CEO David Field plans to change all that with his eight-point action plan for the merged company.
“CBS Radio is not broken,” stated Field at a recent media conference. “CBS is a wonderful company with wonderful leadership, but the radio division has suffered from a certain amount of neglect and a certain amount of lack of investment and cultural and leadership issues that go with being a division in a company which has essentially been on the block for some time.”
Field expects to find $100 million in cost savings and another $30 million in synergies from the combination. Once the integration is completed, I’d be surprised if it didn’t go after one of its competitors — bigger or smaller.
As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.