Right now — assuming it passes regulatory hurdles — Disney is on an easy path to acquire most of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (NASDAQ:FOX). One part of that deal includes Sky, a European broadcasting company, for which Fox has a 39% stake in and a current bid of $15 billion for the other 61% it doesn’t own.
However, Comcast apparently has interest in buying Sky as well, offering $31 billion for Sky. What does this mean for FOX, DIS and Comcast stock now?
The wave of media M&A is beginning to weave a complicated web.
In late-February, Fox said it’s sticking with its offer for Sky because Comcast had yet to make a hard offer for the unit. But that’s all changing with Comcast’s latest move. What was once a neat and orderly plan for Fox, Disney and Sky is now significantly more complicated.
Should Comcast succeed and supplant Fox as the winning bidder, it could own 61% of Sky while Disney could own the other 39% (again, assuming the Disney-Fox deal gets done). This would be a big win for CMCSA and a blow to Disney, with CEO Bob Iger calling Sky a “crown jewel” not too long ago.
This wouldn’t be their only joint asset if it happened, though. The one that immediately jumps out is Hulu. Disney owns 30% of Hulu, as does Fox and Comcast (via NBCUniversal). Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX) owns the other 10%. Assuming the Disney-Fox deal gets done, that gives Disney 60%, CMCSA 30% and TWX 10% of the streaming service.
Like I said, it’s complicated. But…
CMCSA and FOX?
About a month ago, it was reported that CMCSA may consider outbidding Disney’s $52 billion offer for Fox’s assets. Murdoch apparently has concerns about a deal with Comcast though, due to regulatory concerns vs. doing a deal with Disney. However, given that he and his family don’t have majority control means shareholders could gravitate toward the highest bid. That could mean — potentially — a deal with Comcast.
Just for a second, let’s consider what that would mean.
All of a sudden, it doesn’t matter whether Fox gets the rest of Sky. Either way, Comcast likely ends up owning all of it anyway. Disney ends up with zero, unless it outbids Fox/Comcast for the 61% portion currently being chased. Disney also loses out on all of the synergies and possibilities it had going with a Fox deal too. Finally, it remains with a 30% stake in Hulu, while CMCSA sees its ownership swell to 60%.
My, would the tables be turned!
In my view, Disney has more to lose than Comcast stock has to gain, should the latter pull off a deal to outbid the former for Fox. Not that it wouldn’t benefit CMCSA too, but it’s worth pointing out how damaging it would be for Disney if this shifting M&A landscape were to come to fruition.
If anything, it could force Disney to up its bid for Fox and for Fox to up its bid for Sky.
Bottom Line for Comcast Stock
Comcast management appears anxious to do some sort of deal — whether it’s for Sky or Fox (or both). Why now? Maybe it’s because of tax reform. Or perhaps it’s from watching the rest of the field make moves in an effort to find growth and widen its moat against Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX).
Fox would make for a good fit when it comes to content and Sky would help broaden Comcast’s reach overseas. But instead of looking to outbid the rest of the media world on other assets, perhaps it should turn its scopes to other companies.
Consider if Comcast instead bought a movie studio on the cheap, like Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (USA) (NYSE:LGF). Management is open to a deal and it has a market cap of just $4.3 billion.
Or Comcast could buyout the rest of Hulu. Disney already has a new streaming strategy it’s working on and the trio of owners (at the time, it didn’t include TWX) tried to sell Hulu once before.
CMCSA could buy Hulu and work out some content deals to distribute to millions of customers. It would be an easy add-on to its cable-subscription business given its already large footprint. Rather than have the businesses compete, have them complement.
If all else fails, maybe they should have considered an investment in NFLX. If they had, they’d be up more than 60% already this year.
As it stands though, Comcast looks set to get into a serious bidding war with Fox for Sky, which could eventually drag in Disney too. The winner here isn’t clear, with exception of Sky, of course.