Wall Street Cheers Disney-Fox Deal as Media Stocks Get Lift From M&A News

Shares of both Disney and 21st Century Fox rose Thursday after they announced their deal for Disney to acquire major assets of Fox, an event that pushed other media stocks up as well.

21st Century Fox shares closed up 6.5% and Disney shares finished the day up 2.75% following news of the $52.4 billion transaction, announced early Thursday.

“Fox is being well-compensated for the businesses it is selling, and Disney will gain advantages from the additional scale it is buying,” Pivotal Research analysts Brian Wieser wrote in a note Thursday.

To investors, one of the attractive features of the Disney-Fox pact is the savings expected from the consolidation: Disney projects around $2 billion in annual cost-savings by 2021 through the integration of the two companies’ businesses. Of course, such “synergies” imply there are significant layoffs looming.

Analysts were bullish on the deal’s strategic rationale. Disney will have the ingredients for a global direct-to-consumer streaming-video offering, according to UBS’s John Hodulik. “The acquisition will give Disney increased scale in content production and distribution, majority control of Hulu, an increased global footprint, and access to Sky’s distribution technology and OTT platform,” he noted.

Under the deal terms, Disney will acquire the 21st Century Fox assets for $28 per share; after it closes, Fox shareholders will own about 25% of Disney.

Other media stocks that got a lift from the Disney-Fox deal news as Wall Street contemplates potential further M&A were: CBS (up 1.7%), Discovery Communications (1.3%), AMC Networks (0.8%) and Viacom (0.6%).

Netflix shares closed up 0.9%, to $189.56 per share, as the streamer’s investors were unshaken by either the prospect of a Disney-controlled Hulu raising the competitive heat or by the FCC’s expected rollback of net neutrality rules.

Comcast shares closed up 1.4%, while Verizon was down 1.1% and AT&T — which is in the midst of acquiring Time Warner pending the outcome of Justice Department’s  — fell 0.9%.

Shares of Time Warner closed down 0.5%. Another loser in the media sector was Scripps Networks Interactive, which Discovery is acquiring, whose shares closed down 0.15%.

Broader markets were down Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and NASDAQ both dipping 0.3% and the S&P 500 declining 0.4%.

In the deal with 21st Century Fox, Disney is acquiring 20th Century Fox; a cable group that includes FX Networks, National Geographic and more than 300 international channels; and 22 regional sports networks. In addition, Disney will pick up Fox’s 30% stake in Hulu, 50% share of Endemol Shine Group, the Star India satellite service, and Fox’s 39% interest in Euro satellite broadcaster Sky.

The deal excludes Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, FS1 and FS2, and Big Ten Network, as well as 21st Century Fox’s studio lot in L.A. and its stake in internet set-top maker Roku. 21st Century Fox plans to spin those out to investors following close of the asset sale to Disney.

Pictured above: Disney chairman CEO Bob Iger (left) and 21st Century Fox executive chairman Rupert Murdoch

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