CBS Corp. and Viacom shares were up in early trading Thursday after Sumner Redstone’s holding company issued a formal call for the two sides of his media empire to consider recombining in an all-stock transaction.
National Amusements sent a letter Thursday morning to board members of both companies, which are controlled by Redstone. The move had been expected after months of maneuvering at Viacom and signals in recent weeks that Redstone and his daughter, Viacom and CBS vice chairman Shari Redstone, were eyeing a recombination of the companies that merged in 2000 but were split up in 2006.
The letter makes it clear that National Amusements is not open to considering merger offers with outside companies for either Viacom and CBS Corp., a statement that essentially shuts down alternative M&A growth scenarios for both companies. There has been increasing chatter about the potential of a CBS Corp. – Time Warner tie-up, but Redstone’s letter quashes that prospect, at least for now.
CBS shares were up more than $1 out of the gate to hover around $55.50. Viacom had a more modest bounce in the 70 cents range after an hour of trading to the $37.40.
Even Wall Streeters who have taken a dim view of Viacom as of late saw some new reasons to consider the stock. Tuna Amobi, an analyst with S&P Global, raised his rating on Viacom shares to “hold” from “strong sell.” The analyst said, however, he was not completely sold on the new concept. The idea of a merger “seems like a culmination of recent leadership/governance changes at Viacom, we see some major hurdles, aside from difficult fundamentals,” he said in a research note Thursday.
(Pictured: Viacom and CBS controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone and CBS chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves)