Earlier this week, Citi analysts made a modestly bold prediction that consumer-technology giant Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) could acquire streaming video icon Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) in the foreseeable future. Though no specific time frame for such a deal was offered, Citi’s pros pegged the odds of such an acquisition at 40%. This should have no impact on AAPL stock.
Presumably the purchase would be made sooner than later, as the funding source for that deal would be the $250 billion worth of cash Apple’s now going to be able to repatriate at generously low tax rates.
It’s an interesting, albeit unlikely, idea in that there’s a certain measure of logic to it. It’s also an idea, however, that owners of AAPL stock may want to pray never transpires.
Citi on AAPL Stock and Netflix
Citi analysts Jim Suva and Asiya Merchant justified the radical call, explaining to the company’s clients:
“The firm has too much cash – nearly $250 billion – growing at $50 billion a year. This is a good problem to have. Historically, Apple has avoided repatriating cash to the US to avoid high taxation. As such, tax reform may allow Apple to put this cash to use. With over 90% of its cash sitting overseas, a one-time 10% repatriation tax would give Apple $220 billion for M&A or buybacks.”
Netflix wasn’t the only name pegged as a potential target, to be clear. The pair of stock-pickers also opined there was a 25% chance Apple could buy Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS), were it not in the midst of a tie-up with Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (NASDAQ:FOXA).
Video game outfit Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:EA) and even electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) were cited as long shots. Citi’s due pegged Netflix as the most likely buyout of the bunch though, even though that deal would make a minimal positive impact on Apple’s equity.
Investors in AAPL stock aren’t, or at least shouldn’t be, thrilled about the possibility.
Bad Idea for AAPL stock
In simplest terms, Netflix isn’t worth it. It’s a company that would at a minimum cost Apple $88 billion (its current market cap) and that dismisses the likelihood that current NFLX shareholders would demand some sort of premium price.
And for that $88+ billion, Apple would be plugging into a machine that over the course of the past twelve months has only generated $10.9 billion in revenue, and only turned $440 million of that into net income. Oh yeah, and free cash flow remains negative for Netflix.
That’s a simplistic view of what Netflix could be under the Apple umbrella, of course. Netflix’s streaming service would ultimately be another means to an end… that end being selling more iPads and iPhones, and/by simultaneously beefing up its iTunes venue and “Services” business with more content and another subscription-based option; it’s all about the ecosystem.
Thing is, Apple doesn’t need Netflix’s contracts with video content providers, and it doesn’t really need to tap into Netflix’s customer base, which is presently 115 million strong. Apple boasts more than one billion users of its iOS, and the number of iTunes users surpassed 800 million years ago. (Apple isn’t big on updating specific headcounts, but the data occasionally becomes available.)
In other words, Apple can get its own customers.
As for securing its own content, ditto.
While Netflix has managed to secure some exclusive content, it’s not patented the idea. Movie and TV studios offer use of copyrighted content to the highest bidder, and that could just as easily become Apple if it wanted to wade deeper into streaming waters.
And, just like Netflix, Apple is willing and able to create its own video content as a means of saving money and creating a unique customer draw. It’s committed $1 billion in near-term funding for original content, and Loup Venture’s Gene Munster reckons that Apple could spend more than $4 billion on original video content by 2022.
It would still want to secure video from other sources if it wanted to make a platform of its own, but it’s doing that already.
In light of all that reality, investors in AAPL stock are left asking why the company would want to pay a premium price to accomplish something it could accomplish one its own without paying the strange premium (relative to its results) Netflix shares have somehow commanded thus far.
Bottom Line for AAPL Stock
Giving credit where it’s due, it was Forbes contributor Karl Kaufman who pegged Citi’s unsolicited prediction for what it was: a grab for some headlines. As he concluded, “Ultimately, it’s highly doubtful that Apple would buy Netflix, especially at such a high premium. Citi probably knows that, but will be happy to have the attention.”
That attention is already dissipating, with most investors silently agreeing that of all the deals Apple could be interested in, this is the one that’s the least interesting.
Apple would be more likely to rekindle its abandoned plans to create its own skinny TV bundle from scratch, which would really give it some leverage, than bother incorporating an increasingly irrelevant Netflix into its product mix.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can follow him on Twitter, at @jbrumley.