Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Wall Street to Comcast: No NBC for Us, Thank You Very Much

Maybe this is why Comcast rushed to knock down a story that said it bought NBC Universal from GE (GE): It knew Wall Street would hate the idea.

As it is, now that investors and analysts have heard the more plausible deal–instead of buying NBCU for $35 billion, the cable giant kicks in up to $6 billion in cash, plus its cable networks, and gets 51 percent of NBCU–they’ve decided they hate that one, too.

Here’s the story in the graphic form (click chart to enlarge):

cmcsa ticker

The Comcast-NBCU story broke after the market closed on Wednesday, in case that wasn’t clear. As I’m typing this, Comcast (CMCSA) is trading around $15.6 a share, down some seven percent since the talks became public.

Pull back a bit and you see that things could be much worse: As recently as March, Comcast was down below $12, and there wasn’t any multibillion dollar deal weighing down the shares then.

If anything, investors are much more forgiving to Comcast here than the professional chattering class of writers and analysts, who hate the deal. The conventional wisdom: Comcast’s dream of marrying cable programming with its cable service is misguided because media conglomerates like Time Warner (TWX) and News Corp (NWS) have already tried it and concluded that it didn’t work. If the Roberts family spends money on anything, they argue, it ought to be on shareholders, either via dividends or by buying back shares.

Here’s a sampling of today’s sentiments:

Pali Capital’s Rich Greenfield:

Comcast is trying to become a massive player in content…a move that investors should be frightened about, regardless of the initial “math” surrounding the transaction.

Barclays Capital Vijay Jayant:

Press reports of this potential transaction give credence to investor concerns that management has empire-building aspirations in general or that they may not believe enough in their own distribution business over the long term and therefore need to diversify their portfolio holdings…fundamentally, we believe that Comcast shareholders would be better served if the company were to invest in its own shares.

So if this is a trial balloon, you wouldn’t say it has been shot down completely. But it’s certainly sagging.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work