Who said no one loves a legacy magazine company?
Time (TIME) shares rose for a third straight day on Thursday after a Bloomberg report said the publisher of Fortune, Sports Illustrated and People magazine had been contacted by Meredith (MDP - Get Report) about a potential merger.
Time stock has surged 48% since Nov. 2 and has gained 6.2% this year, closing Thursday at $18.95. Shares stood at $17.85 at year's end.
Meredith shares declined 2.4% Thursday to $58.50.
Contacts between the companies remain at an early stage, and no formal merger talks have begun -- and may not occur -- a source close to the discussions said. Time has been the subject of a possible takeover since the summer, when investment firm Jana Partners took a 5% stake in the New York company, prompting its board to hire Morgan Stanley (MS - Get Report) as an adviser.
Meredith of Des Moines, Iowa, nearly acquired all of Time except for Fortune, Sports Illustrated and its flagship Time magazine in 2013, but those talks broke down, prompting Time Warner (TWX) to spin off the publisher.
But pressure has been mounting on the company to reverse a decline in revenue and revive a slumping stock price. Time's revenue dropped to $750 million in the third quarter of 2016 from $820 million for the same period in 2014. Operating income dipped to $64 million last quarter, compared with $100 million for the same period two years ago.
In September, Time's board replaced Joe Ripp as CEO with Rich Battista, elevating an executive who only had been with the company for about 18 months. Battista then replaced finance chief Jeff Bairstow, on the job for three years, with Time comptroller Sue D'Emic, and on Dec. 13, Battista elevated the head of its digital sales group, Brad Elders, 49, to the position of chief revenue officer, taking over from Mark Ford, a 32-year company veteran.
Time's reorganization may be a last-ditch effort to turn the company around by leveraging its many brands on video platforms such as its newly launched free and ad-supported People/Entertainment Weekly Network. Nonetheless, an investor group headed by Seagram's heir Edgar Bronfman recently offered Time's board an $18 per share buyout, according to a person familiar with the matter.
A Time spokeswoman declined to comment, and a Meredith representative wasn't immediately available.