During the company's third quarter earnings call on Oct. 27, the CEO of WWE Vince McMahon indicated that he is "open for business," which sparked speculations about a possible sale. But Wells Fargo thinks an imminent sale in the near term is unlikely while treating the remark as "a typical CEO statement." Other analysts believe M&A prospects could be growth drivers for WWE shares, which tanked last Thursday.
The comments sparked a wave of speculation as to what companies may make a play to acquire the 37-year-old company.
Possible offers for WWE Network could come from several big media players. According to a report from Barron's, FBN Securities analyst Robert Routh wrote in a note to clients last Friday that "given the existing partnership with NBCUniversal it seems Comcast (CMCSA) - Get Report could be a logical fit for WWE as could MSG (MSGN) - Get Report or possibly even Live Nation (LYV) - Get Report ."
The speculation comes after WWE posted results third quarter financial results on Thursday, Oct. 27.
The Stamford, Conn.-based company posted earnings per share of 14 cents, compared with analysts expectation of 18 cents. The company had net revenue for the third quarter of $164.2 million compared to $166.2 million in the same period of 2015.
North American revenues decreased 6% to $118.5 million from $125.9 million the prior year.
Revenues from the company's largest international market, the United Kingdom, totaled $17.3 million and $16.3 million, and $58.2 million and $49.6 million for the three and nine months ended Sept. 30 and Sept. 30, 2015, respectively.
Benchmark analyst Mike Hickey maintained a "buy" rating on the stock of WWE on Monday despite the company's disappointing third quarterly results and underwhelming Network subscriber guidance. This came after several Wall Street firms downgraded their ratings on the company's stock on Friday, Oct. 28, after the sports media and entertainment company posted worse-than-expected earnings and sales revenue for the third quarter.
Wells Fargo changed its rating on WWE to "market perform" from "outperform," citing that revenue was lower than expected and the company's 1.458 million forecast for paid subscribers to its online video platform were lower than what analysts were expecting, which was 1.490 million and more.
Pacific Crest Securities and KeyBanc Capital Markets downgraded WWE to "sector weight" on the company's gross add declines and incremental U.S. subscriber growth.
WWE counts revenue streams from film, music, product licensing, and direct product sales. In February 2014, it launched the WWE Network, a subscription-based video streaming service under the ownership of WWE. The network offers 24/7 scheduled programming and an on-demand library.
WWE Network subscribers increased 24% from the third quarter 2015 to 1.46 million over the third quarter 2016, according to an earnings statement released on Oct. 27.
A study from Dallas-based market research firm Park Associates cites that WWE Network's online video service subscribers has grown to 1.5 million, which puts it ahead of popular mainstream video subscription services such as HBO Now and Showtime Anytime. To gain broader market shares, the network has expanded to 220 countries and now allows subscribers access anywhere at anytime. But analysts hold the consensus that international ambition alone is not enough.
"The WWE Network is effectively global, having launched in all meaningful countries (ex-China). The international opportunity remains large, but growth in this business on an absolute basis is not likely to be sufficient to offset slower U.S. growth, at least in the near term. International subs are only one-quarter of total paying subscribers," wrote Evan Wingren, analyst at Pacific Crest Securities in a research note on Oct. 28.
Shares of WWE fell about 1% to $17.86 per share in morning trading Monday.