上市后的阿里巴巴财力雄厚，可支配资金最多有望达到500亿美元。而且，该公司正打算通过在美国的收购来实现增长。更重要的是，阿里巴巴希望在中国建立自己的流媒体视频业务，以便和优酷土豆以及搜狐等国内视频服务商抗衡。同时，它已经和狮门娱乐（Lions Gate Entertainment）联手，推出一项新业务。
Sanjay Sanghoee是一位商业评论家。他曾在知名投行拉扎德（Lazard Freres）和德利佳华（Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein）就职，还曾为对冲基金RamiusCapital效力。他拥有哥伦比亚商学院（Columbia Business School）的MBA学位，在Netflix、亚马逊公司、苹果公司、康卡斯特、时代华纳和阿里巴巴都没有持股。（财富中文网）
In addition, even though Apple has $155 billion in cash and securities on its balance sheet, it tends to use that money for share buybacks and for purchasing small companies primarily for their intellectual property or talent as opposed to sustaining its businesses. The $3 billion Beats acquisition was an exception but that has a lot to do with Apple’s focus on music. This puts Netflix far outside of Apple’s desired scope, at least for now.
Another potential acquirer could be Comcast CMCSA 0.51% , soon to be Comcast-Time Warner. The combination of Comcast and Time Warner, upon government approval, will create the biggest cable provider in the U.S. with 30 million subscribers. However, despite its market power, Comcast is now facing a growing challenge of consumers wanting to cut the cable cord. As services like Netflix, Hulu, and now even HBO and Showtime provide consumers with most of the content they want over the Internet, the traditional cable model is breaking down.
By acquiring Netflix, Comcast could bundle the company’s video streaming portal with its own broadband access service, which might help it to replace customers that it loses on the cable side. A merger would also help Netflix, which was forced to pay a fee to Comcast to avoid being slowed down over the company’s network.
Still, there are two wrinkles here. First, President Obama’s recent call on the FCC to enforce net neutrality could prevent companies like Comcast from selectively slowing down Internet traffic and therefore obviate the need for Netflix to pursue a transaction with the cable operator, making the buyer more eager than the seller (although the head of the FCC has pushed back on the idea). In that situation, Comcast might have to pay a very large premium to obtain Netflix.
The other problem would be anti-trust approval. Ironically, the scope of the synergy between these two companies and the combined reach they would have makes this transaction highly improbable, if not impossible. Comcast’s deal with Time Warner has drawn plenty of fire from market watchers with anti-competitive concerns stemming from such a mega-merger, and any further moves by Comcast down this road could be a non-starter for the Department of Justice.
That brings us to the most appropriate suitor for Netflix – Chinese ecommerce behemoth Alibaba BABA -3.01% , which recently went public.
Flushed with cash after going public, Alibaba could potentially have up to $50 billion to spend. The company is also looking to grow through acquisitions in the U.S. More importantly, it wants to create a streaming video presence in China to compete with domestic players like YoukuTodou and Sohu.com, and has partnered with Lions Gate Entertainment LGF 0.41% to launch a new service.
While Lions Gate is a successful movie and television producer and distributor, it has no experience in running an online content portal and is potentially limited in its content relationships unlike a pure-play distributor like Netflix. If Alibaba really wants to crack the streaming video market, it would benefit more from the technological and marketing expertise of the leading player in the space rather than start from scratch with Lions Gate.
It may be that Alibaba’s goal isn’t just to launch a new video service but to make a splash in Hollywood through production. But there too, Netflix could be a solid partner given its aggressive entry into series creation and now into movies as well. Netflix has also said that it will double its spending on original content in 2014, some of which could be channeled into producing exclusive content for China while the rest continues to support the U.S. and other markets. In other words, by acquiring Netflix, Alibaba would gain a powerful brand name, a global streaming footprint (spanning 50 countries), and a plug-and-play operation for the $470 million Chinese online video market.
For Netflix’s part, slowing domestic user growth means the company needs to expand actively into new markets, a point that CFO David Wells stressed during an investor event. While the Chinese market is not an easy one to navigate – challenges range from government restrictions and piracy of content to hesitation from consumers to pay for online video – Alibaba, with its size and local clout, could help Netflix succeed in that environment. And with its growing expenditures on original content and rapid push into international markets likely to cost a lot of money, Netflix could benefit from Alibaba’s balance sheet.
Finally, with Netflix currently trading 20% down from its 52-week high, and the Lions Gate investment not yet complete, now would be a good time for Alibaba to explore talks. Given his long bet on Netflix, Mark Cuban would be happy.
Sanjay Sanghoee is a business commentator. He has worked at investment banks Lazard Freres and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, at hedge fund Ramius Capital, and has an MBA from Columbia Business School. He does not own any shares of Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Time Warner or Alibaba.