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新闻集团遭重创,股票买入正逢时?

Duff McDonald 2011年07月25日

如果鲁伯特•默多克的媒体帝国能够考虑的所有战略方案都已经明朗,投资者或许能靠其股票大赚一笔。

    近期,新闻集团(News Corp.)电话窃听丑闻所引发的媒体大战还在继续上演。这些记者们终于也感受一下焦头烂额的滋味,真是因果报应。鲁伯特•默多克和他的儿子詹姆斯•默多克面对英国议会的质询,辩称“我们没有犯罪,我们只是毫无头绪”,这一场景必定会成为今年最具“娱乐性”的一幕。现在我们知道,鲁伯特或许只是一个糊涂的糟老头子,他儿子则是尽其所能支吾其词,而且显然整个事件已经让他的妻子邓文迪变得神经紧张。

    另外,我们还了解到,新闻集团死气沉沉、逆来顺受的董事会也大为震惊,已经处于警备状态,紧张程度甚至并不亚于鲁伯特的妻子。据称,他们正在研究各种对策,例如1.)放弃该公司在英国的所有报纸业务(机率:还算不错);2.)采用董事长和首席执行官分任制,把鲁伯特赶下首席执行官的位子,而由总裁蔡斯•凯里接任(机率:不会太大);3.) 50亿美元的股票回购计划(机率:似乎为100%)。但愿他们不会继续任由默多克自以为是地进行任何冲减市值的收购。例如他对道琼斯公司(Dow Jones)和其旗舰报纸《华尔街日报》(Wall Street Journal)的收购。

    华尔街的分析师们在对新闻集团这样的大公司进行估值时,常采用分类加总估值法(sum-of-the-parts valuation)。这些大公司同时经营多种业务,拥有多元化的资产,分类加总法可以帮助他们(以及他们的客户)更好地评估出这些资产的整体价格。但是,这些通常只是停留在想法上而已,尤其是在遇到像默多克这种独裁的首席执行官时,则更是如此——只要一息尚存,他就会拼命收集更多的“玩具”。六个月前若有人问他是否有意拆分他的传媒王国,肯定会遭到他的侮辱。即使到了今天,他仍可能会一笑置之,但是董事会的其他成员却再也笑不出来了。他们已经将各种可能的方案摆上了台面。

    上周一,野村证券研究部(Nomura Equity Research)的分析师迈克尔•内桑森对新闻集团进行了一番解体分析,颇为有趣。分析中,迈克尔设想把公司分为三大块:优质资产、劣势资产和有毒资产。分析表明,拆分后各部分的价值竟然要高于之前的整体价值。

    内桑森所谓的“优质资产”(Good NWS)包括新闻集团旗下的有线电视络、电视资产、英国天空广播公司(BskyB)的股权以及意大利天空卫视(Sky Italia)的业务。他估计,2012年“优质资产”的收入将达173亿美元,接近公司全部收入的一半。即使将该公司当前的所有负债(当然包括所有现金)全部算在“优质资产”身上,它仍将实现30%的年收益增长率,表现依然不俗。按可比单一业务有线网络公司14倍的市盈率计算,内桑森认为单就 “优质资产”而言,新闻集团的目标价为每股14.54美元。上周二早晨,新闻集团的股价收于16.90美元。

    接着内桑森分析了包括所有报纸资产在内的“有毒资产”(Toxic NWS),并将其全部剥离出来。尽管这些资产在2012年预期收入(扣除息税前)中的比重也几乎占到9%,共计62亿美元,但内桑森却认为这部分资产的价值为零。很长时间以来,投资界都认为,持有报纸资产不过是默多克为了满足自己的虚荣心,并且实现把持新闻集团投票权的目的而做出的决定,因此这部分股票价值也得相应地打上折扣。当然,如果将这部分有毒资产出售,公司仍可能赚钱,但是在当前的股权结构下,在投资者看来,这些报纸一文不值,甚至还会更糟。

    最后,我们来看一下“劣质资产”(Bad NWS)。在内桑森的分类中 ,这部分资产包括影视娱乐公司、杂志和图书出版业务。尽管包括联合制作业务在内的影视娱乐资产确实有一定的价值,但是考虑到DVD行业目前的负增长趋势,内桑森不得不保守地将其列入 “劣质资产”中。综合计算,预计这部分业务在2012年将带来100亿美元的收入,每股收益达0.39美元。

    而这些数字的有趣之处在于:当我们用当前股价16.90美元减去内桑森对所谓“优势资产”的估值14.54美元时, 得出的结果是2.46美元,也就是“劣势资产”的价值——请记住,有毒资产的价值为零。再除以2012年的预期每股收益0.39美元,那么,你只需支付相当于收益值6.3倍的价格,便可得到这笔“劣势资产”(本周早些时候,该公司股价一度跌至15.64美元,当时为这部分资产所支付的价格仅为收益的2.8倍)。当时,内桑森写道:“虽然还没到完全免费的份上,但的确已经相当便宜了。”这一论点目前仍然成立。如果董事会果真能履行其职能,迫使默多克认真考虑这些战略方案,那么这些股票可能会带来丰厚的收益。

    内桑森认为,目前最大的风险在于,由于公司放弃了收购英国天空广播公司其他股权的计划,致使这位传媒大亨手握大把资金可供操作,因此,他很有可能进行其他收购活动,,比如他对道琼斯或社交网站公司MySpace的收购,进而造成公司价值严重缩水。如果分析师的报告担忧某一公司的首席执行官手中的可支配资金过多,这说明该公司存在严重的问题。

    内桑森的担心并非空穴来风:尽管公司向窃听受害者支付了大笔封口费,并且拿出50亿美元进行股票回购,但根据预测,截至2012年底,新闻集团可用的现金总额仍将达到94亿美元之多。所以这是一场豪赌:如果公司董事会能够成功阻止默多克利用这笔资金做出任何愚蠢举动,同时迫使他从股东利益出发,考虑将公司分拆,那么现在正是买入该公司股票的最佳时机。

    从默多克在上周二听证会上的表现来看,要完成这两项任务,并非难事。

    (翻译 俞华)

    The media frenzy over the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal has been a thing to behold. There's nothing like a good comeuppance to get journalists all hot and bothered, and the sight of Rupert and James Murdoch taking the "we're not criminals, we're just clueless" defense in front of Parliament will surely go down as one of the year's most entertaining spectacles. We now know that Rupert just might be a doddering old fool, that his son can prevaricate with the best of them, and that Wendi Deng has clearly been put on edge by the whole experience.

    What we also know is that a somnolent and acquiescent board has been shocked into a state of alertness that might even rival that of Rupert's wife. They're said to be considering a whole range of options. One: ditching the company's entire UK Newspaper business (odds: not too bad). Two: separating the roles of chairman and CEO, kicking Rupert out of the chief executive's chair and replacing him with president Chase Carey (odds: not too good). Three: a $5 billion stock repurchase effort (odds: seemingly 100%). What they're hopefully not going to do is allow Rupert to make any more ego-driven but dilutive acquisitions, such as that of Dow Jones and its flagship the Wall Street Journal.

    Wall Street analysts like to do something called a sum-of-the-parts valuation when it comes to big conglomerates like News Corp. (NWS).It helps them (and their clients) to better understand how one can even consider putting a price on the totality of such a disparate and diverse collection of assets. Normally, though, these are just thought exercises—all the more so when you have a dictatorial chief executive like Rupert who is hell-bent on collecting as many toys as he can before he croaks. Ask him six months ago if he planned to break up News Corp., and he would have laughed in your face. Ask him today, and while he may still laugh, the board of News Corp. won't be laughing with him. All options seem to be on the table.

    Michael Nathanson, an analyst at Nomura Equity Research, ran an interesting breakup analysis of News Corp on Monday. In it, he envisioned splitting the company into three separate parts: Good News Corp, Bad News Corp, and Toxic News Corp. In his analysis, the parts look to be worth more than the sum.

    Nathanson's Good NWS includes the company's cable networks, its television properties, its BSkyB stake, and its Sky Italia business. He estimates that Good NWS would have $17.3 billion in fiscal 2012 revenues, just under half that of the combined company. Even after saddling Good NWS with all of News Corp's current debt (albeit all its cash as well), he sees impressive earnings growth of 30% annually. Putting a 14x multiple on those earnings that's comparable to other pure play cable assets, he gets to $14.54 per share of Good NWS alone. NWS shares were trading at $16.90 as of Thursday morning.

    Nathanson then takes Toxic NWS—all of its newspaper assets—and throws them overboard, despite their accounting for just under 9% of estimated 2012 earnings before interest and taxes. That's a combined $6.2 billion in 2012 revenues onto which he puts a value of zero. The investment community has long considered the newspaper holdings nothing more than a result of Rupert's vanity and chokehold on News Corp. votes, and has discounted the shares accordingly. Sure, the company may make money if it sells them, but under current ownership, they're worthless to investors, if not worse.

    Finally, we come to Bad NWS. Into this pile Nathanson throws filmed entertainment, magazines, and book publishing. While filmed entertainment does have value, including syndication deals, negative DVD trends have Nathanson choosing to be conservative and to include them in the less attractive half of Good/Bad NWS. Combined, these businesses would account for an estimated $10 billion in 2012 revenue and earnings per share of $0.39.

    Here's where the numbers get really interesting. If you subtract his Good NWS valuation of $14.54 from today's share price of $16.90, you're left with $2.46 per share that is attributable to Bad NWS. (Remember, Toxic NWS is worth nothing.) Divide that by $0.39 of 2012 earnings, and you're paying just 6.3 times those earnings for Bad NWS. (Earlier in the week, with the shares at $15.64, you were only paying 2.8x earnings.) "Not entirely free," wrote Nathanson at the time. "But very, very cheap." The argument still stands today. If the board does do its job and forces Murdoch to seriously consider all strategic options, there just might be some real money to be made on these shares.

    The biggest risk that Nathanson can see is that the company's derailed acquisition of the part of BSkyB that it didn't own leaves Rupert with too much money to play with, therefore increasing the likelihood of his making another value-destroying acquisition like that of Dow Jones or MySpace. It says a lot about a company when analyst reports are concerned that the chief executive has too much money at his disposal.

    And he's right to be concerned: Even with all the hush money this firm has apparently been paying out to phone-hacking victims, and including the $5 billion share buyback, News Corp. will have an estimated $9.4 billion in cash on hand at the end of 2012. So there's your big bet: the stock is a BUY if the board can stop Rupert from doing something stupid with the money, while also forcing him to consider breaking the company up for the good of its shareholders.

    After his performance on Tuesday, it doesn't seem like either one of those tasks is going to be too hard.

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