Media stocks, having already taken a beating from recent quarterly disappointments, are plunging to new lows along with the broader stock market sell-offs, making potential merger targets like Viacom (VIAB - Get Report) and Discovery (DISCA - Get Report) even hotter buys.
A frenzy of media consolidations the past year, including AT&T Inc.'s (T - Get Report) $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV completed in July, has slowed to a lull in recent months after Comcast (CMCSA - Get Report) dropped its $45 billion bid for Time Warner Cable (TWC) amid regulatory hurdles.
But the lower valuations -- with Viacom forging fresh four-year lows and Discovery trading at new six-year lows -- could wake-up a new wave of buyouts as merger volume in the media sector that, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers Aug. 19 report, is already up in the second quarter of 2015 from "sluggish start in 2015."
In what's been dubbed 'Black Monday, the Dow plunged as much as 1,089 points Monday as crude oil future prices slid below $40 per barrel, China made little action toward resolving its financial crisis and as investors tried to anticipate whether the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates sooner or later.
Amid media company mergers, deal value reached $76 billion in the second quarter, up from $39 billion in the first quarter driven by $63 billion in cable deals and $6 billion in Internet and information deals.
"While deal volumes typically soften over the summer months, PwC foresees the M&A market to remain robust into Q3 2015 and beyond," the PwC report said, citing shareholder pressure on companies to deliver growth as another driver of acquisitions in an industry ailed by rapidly changing consumer preferences toward digital and more affordable viewing options.
Viacom, with its stock already off 51% the past year, is often cited as a potential takeover target. The New York-based company, marking a low of $36.32 Monday, could slide to as low as $28 per share if it fails to renew its deal with Dish Networks (DISH) this year, Bernstein media analyst Todd Juenger said in an Aug. 14 note. Viacom halted its buyback program after losing $3.4 billion investing in itself, Bloomberg reported.
CBS (CBS - Get Report), Viacom's former sister company until 2005, has said to be an ideal merger partner for Viacom, with its reliable cable affiliate fees, although Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said earlier this year a deal with CBS "is not happening."Silver Spring, Md.-based Discovery Communications ( DISCA - Get Report) and Starz ( STRZA) have also been the focus of takeover speculation as of late, although the latter Englewood-Colo.-based company, focused on video programming, is bucking declines with the stock up 23% year-to-date. Discovery, while smaller than 21st Century Fox ( FOXA) and Timer Warner ( TWX), reaches 2.5 billion subscribers in more than 220 countries.