CBS, Viacom shares drop amid merger plans

Shares of media-industry stocks fell in tandem with an overwhelmingly negative market, which offset enthusiasm for the merger of Viacom and CBS and other parts of the sector.

Shares of Viacom were off $2.49, or 8.52%, in Wednesday trading, down to $26.72 from $29.21. Shares of CBS, meanwhile, were off $4.05, or 8.32%, down to $44.65 from $47.54.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted Wednesday after investors were spooked by the bond market as well as weak economic data from Germany and China.


During an investor call Tuesday, executives from both CBS and Viacom made their pitch for the power of the combined entity, which would operate the CBS television network, the Showtime pay-cable service, the Paramount movie studio and the Nickelodeon kids-media unit. They suggested the company could capture more revenue from a new emphasis on streaming video, advanced advertising and affiliate revenue.

Wall Street analysts see the rationale for the deal, but have cautioned against too much optimism about it. “Judging by the tepid and languid reaction, the new company will have to work extra hard to prove the financial merits of this combination,” said Michael Nathanson, a media analyst with MoffettNathanson. Others see a need for the combined company to keep buying more assets to stay competitive. “The firm may need to continue to bulk up via M&A to compete with its much larger peers like Disney, WarnerMedia, and NBCUniversal,” said Neil Mackler, a senior equity analyst at Morningstar.

Investor Mario Gabelli said his funds hold about 5 million preferred voting shares in Viacom, the shares that give the Redstone family, which governs both companies through its National Amusements Inc. movie-exhibition firm,  iron-clad control of both CBS and Viacom. He was not happy to see the preferred Viacom shares valued at the same rate as the non-voting shares.


“From the big picture view, I’m glad they got it done. I need a little extra juice for the voting stock,” Gabelli told Variety on Wednesday. He said he planned to reach out to the company and explore his legal options according to Delaware law, where Viacom is incorporated.  But he said he would also be realistic about weighing the cost of litigation versus the return. “Even if they gave me $3 more a share, that’s about a quarter of the severance of the CEOs that have left. This is not anything that anybody is going to worry about,” he said.

Shares of other big media components also fell Wednesday. Shares of Fox Corp. were off 3.91%, or $1.37 a share. Shares of Walt Disney Company fell 3.04%, or $4.16 a share. Shares of Comcast, owned of NBCUniversal, tumbled 2.51%, or $1.09. And shares of AT&T, owner of WarnerMedia, fell 2.21%, or 77 cents a share.