Speculation that a CBS Corp.-Viacom Inc. merger announcement was imminent, and that CBS might score a slight premium for its shares, prompted Viacom’s stock to fall in Monday morning trading.
The New York-based companies are in the final stages of reaching a merger agreement. Board members representing two firms, both controlled by the Sumner Redstone family, worked through the weekend to try to nail down final details – but still had not reached agreement on a price, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to comment. The merger agreement was expected to be announced Monday, but Bloomberg News noted that the “timing could slip into (today).”
CBS is the larger of the two companies, and thus, it will absorb the smaller Viacom Inc., whose assets include MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, BET and the Paramount Pictures movie studio in Hollywood.
Nonetheless, the new company is expected to be named Viacom, in a nod to the legacy of ailing mogul Sumner Redstone, who acquired Viacom in 1987 and built it into an entertainment leader.
Because the deal will be an all-stock transaction, investors have been watching closely for any details on the exchange ratio that values the two stocks.
(The exchange ratio is the relative number of new shares that will be given to existing shareholders of a company that has been acquired or that has merged with another.)
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that CBS would get a “small premium for its shares,” and that the exchange ratio being discussed was from 0.59 to 0.60. That prompted Viacom’s stock to fall more than 4% to under $29 by midday Monday.
Viacom’s market value is currently $11.9 billion. The deal value will be in that neighborhood.
CBS shares, which had fallen about 4% on Friday, was trading around $49 a share on Monday. CBS’ market value is about $18.5 billion.
Viacom Chief Executive Bob Bakish is expected to become chief executive of the merged company and gain a seat on the board. Shari Redstone, the mogul’s daughter, will become Viacom’s first chairwoman.
The proposed merger of the two New York-based companies is the latest in a wave of entertainment industry consolidations and was widely expected. It was the third time in 3 years that CBS and Viacom attempted to hook up.
CBS was part of Viacom until Redstone, now 96, tore his empire into two pieces in 2006.
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