Activist Investor May Be on Prowl for Viacom: Gordon Haskett

ViacomCBS shares rose after a Gordon Haskett analyst said recent trading in the stock suggests an activist investor may be on the prowl,
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ViacomCBS  (VIACA) - Get Report shares rose Friday after Gordon Haskett analyst Don Bilson said recent trading in the stock suggests an activist investor may be on the prowl, making a significant investment in the company.

The hubbub comes in the wake of the death of company Founder Sumner Redstone this week.

ViacomCBS recently traded at $30.58, up 4.5%. The stock has dropped 30% year to date.

Bilson pointed out in a commentary that Credit Suisse, which is known for making trades on behalf of investors who wish to remain quiet, bought 12.8 million ViacomCBS shares in the second quarter.

"Someone might have seen ... a good entry point, especially if they believed that Redstone's eventual passing would open up new opportunities such as the sale of Paramount or the sale of the whole company," Bilson said.

To be sure, there are "limits to what an activist could do" at ViacomCBS, given the ownership structure favoring the Redstone family, he said.

Sumner Redstone’s daughter, Shari Redstone, heads a seven-person trust that has voting control of the company. So she has veto power over any activist.

ViacomCBS owns Paramount studio, CBS network and cable channels MTV and Nickelodeon. Advertising has slumped in recent years, as viewers exit traditional TV for cheaper options. And the coronavirus pandemic has hammered advertising across all media.

Meanwhile, Viacom is renaming its streaming service, now called CBS All Access, possibly to Paramount+. The move comes as the company views CBS as a brand too closely associated with older viewers, the Financial Times reports.