Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:APPL) is poised for an OK year and AAPL stock has been strong, but there is something else to be considered about the financial climate.
A bunch of big companies are expected to repatriate a healthy amount of overseas cash in the near future thanks to tax reform. With that extra cash influx comes extra speculation. How will these big companies use this extra cash? Dividends? Buybacks? Investments? Acquisitions?
Of all the potential use cases, acquisitions is the most sexy. And that is where the most speculation is happening. It seems every analyst and investor is throwing out a potential M&A deal that could go through now that all this cash is coming back to America. Some of these M&A ideas are ridiculous. Other are more founded.
One that is somewhere in between is the idea that Apple, which has about $250 billion in cash, will shell out more than $100 billion to acquire streaming giant Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX).
Will this deal actually happen? Maybe. But not likely.
Why Apple Might Buy Netflix
Apple does have a bunch of cash, and that cash pile is growing quickly. Eventually, that cash has to be deployed to something.
An acquisition would be a great use of the cash. AAPL doesn’t normally acquire companies, but its largest headline acquisitions to-date have played out wonderfully. One (Beats Electronics) has become the most dominant player in the headphone space by a mile, while the other (Siri) has become a key component of the company’s flagship iPhone product.
More specifically, an acquisition of Netflix would make sense because it is a valuable asset in a secular growth market which AAPL has failed to penetrate. Without argument, Netflix is the leader in the over-the-top entertainment space, and that dominance may be growing considering Hulu’s tepid user growth.
Apple has failed time and time again to penetrate this market. All that has happened is that iTunes, once a leader in the over-the-top content space, is rapidly losing market share to Spotify in the music streaming world while it is entirely irrelevant next to Netflix in the video streaming world.
Acquiring Netflix would not only finally push Apple into the OTT entertainment market, but also make them the leader in the space.
And then there is the whole ecosystem element to it. Apple is trying hard to build out its Services business. A Netflix acquisition fits perfectly into that wheelhouse, and lessens the company’s dependence on iPhone revenue.
Why AAPL Likely Won’t Buy Netflix
While there are reasons why Apple might buy Netflix, they likely won’t.
First, Apple doesn’t make big acquisitions. Beats is the company’s largest acquisition to-date, and that was a paltry $3 billion versus what would have to be a $100 billion-plus price tag for Netflix.
Second, AAPL has already budgeted $1 billion for original programming next year. If Apple does pull the trigger on Netflix, it will likely be after Apple tries one final time to push into the OTT entertainment space by itself.
That effort may play out differently than previous attempts. After all, this space is growing rapidly and many players are entering the fold (see Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS)). It only makes sense that Apple becomes one of those new players. And if they do, there’s no need for a Netflix acquisition.
Third, it is more likely AAPL just keeps doing what they’ve been doing with this extra cash, just at a faster pace. That includes buying back shares, hiking the dividend, and making various small acquisitions like Shazam. This is what Apple has always done, and a bunch of extra cash likely won’t change the old dog’s habits.
Bottom Line on Netflix and AAPL
Citi came out and said the likelihood of this deal happening is 40%. That seems high, but it still is less than 50%.
I peg the chances of a deal like this going through at around 30%. In other words, it could happen, but it likely won’t happen.
As of this writing, Luke Lango was long NFLX and DIS.