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商业 - 科技

为什么说苹果应该收购Netflix

Sanjay Sanghoee 2015年04月23日

随着Netflix的订阅用户快速增长,它可能成为iTunes的劲敌。对苹果来说这是一个极具吸引力的收购目标。

    

    流媒体视频服务供应商Netflix最近披露的数据显示,今年一季度它创下了新的增长纪录,美国国内订阅用户增长了230万,国际订阅用户增长了260万。目前,Netflix称其全球用户数已达6200万。面对如此高速增长,综合性金融公司FBR & Co.分析师巴顿•克罗基特将Netflix的一年期目标价定为每股900美元,相对于当前股价,上升空间接近60%。克罗基特还预计,Netflix的全球用户数将达到1.8亿。

    Netflix的增长很大程度上得益于其成功的海外扩张,以及一系列原创新剧的不断推出,比如改编自漫威漫画的《超胆侠》、《血族》,而且现有热播剧《纸牌屋》和《女子监狱》等都推出了新一季。Netflix还有部分收入来自不愿意忍受昂贵的有线及卫星电视的消费者,对他们来说Netflix提供了娱乐新选择。

    然而,海外扩张和优质节目需要都投入大量资金,而且得持续投入。Netflix购买和制作节目的成本正节节攀升。同时,海外市场扩张策略在盈利前要承受相当大的成本压力。换句话说,想实现预期增长,Netflix需要健康的现金流支撑。

    这些因素带来了收购Netflix的良机。对苹果这样的企业来说,如果没有认真考虑过此事未免是种疏忽。苹果既有收购Netflix的实力,也有足够的动力。虽然影视业务可能并非苹果的主要关注点,但在Netflix这样的对手抢占市场之际,苹果当然不能置身事外。

    尽管苹果特有的视频下载平台iTunes很受欢迎,而且能提供大量新电影和电视剧,但并没有像Netflix一样提供订阅服务,而且价格高得多。举例来说,在iTunes上,一季热门电视剧的价格可能在35美元以上,而Netflix的包月价格才8.99美元,而且包月后用户可在一个月内任意观看各种内容。如果Netflix的用户群按现有速度急剧增长,可能会对苹果造成威胁。Netflix原创剧对用户的吸引力也是一大优势(iTunes上也有这些节目,但加价甚高)。

    当然,如果苹果收购了Netflix,部分业务会和iTunes重叠;但如果不收购,这部分生意也会被独立的Netflix夺走,结果还是一样。如果消费者更青睐Netflix,他们完全没无理由花更多的钱在iTunes上购买同样的节目。换句话说,目前这部分收入几乎已经钻进Netflix的钱袋了。而如果苹果收购了Netflix并且拥有控制权,就可以有效止损,确保能赚钱的节目只在iTunes上可以购买,不会同时出现在Netflix上。此外,iTunes上的内容更广泛也更流行,而Netflix的节目相对不稳定,二者完全可以在市场推广方面互补。iTunes的卖点在于提供更多选择,Netflix则侧重低价订阅模式和优质剧集。

    Netflix庞大的全球用户规模与苹果旗下产品也能形成协同营销。比如说,Netflix的新用户签约后可以打折购买最新款iPad,苹果也可以为Apple TV机顶盒绑定三个月的Netflix服务。

    既然好处良多,接下来就要看看苹果要怎样收购Netflix。

    苹果市值超过7200亿美元,资产负债表上有1780亿美元现金,接近五年来最高点的股价也让苹果股票成为“收购硬通货”。Netflix的市值约为347亿美元,这对苹果来说不在话下,收购方式可以用股票加现金,甚至可以全股票收购。关键在于苹果股票一直涨势不减,智能手表等新产品也获得了空前的成功。对Netflix的现有股东来说,这些因素将使苹果的股票成为不错的支付方式。只是苹果的市盈率可能变成全股票收购的潜在障碍。按2015年预期每股收益和4月20日收盘价计算,苹果的市盈率为14.5倍,Netflix的市盈率为176.8倍。低市盈率公司收购高市盈率公司往往会对前者产生摊薄效应,原因是对低市盈率公司来说,提高每股收益的效果将没那么明显。不过,Netflix的规模远小于苹果,加上投资者看好Netflix的增长前景,可继续提升苹果的股价,这应该可以减轻摊薄效应的影响。

    换句话说,收购Netflix这样深受投资者青睐的公司短期或许成本很高,但长期来看可以推动苹果的股价上行。如果苹果能好好利用Netflix庞大而且仍在增长的用户群,可以借机提高自家产品的销量。相应的,Netflix也能受益,因为苹果有出色的营销能力,还有覆盖全球的业务,特别是在中国等关键市场。苹果充沛的现金也将令Netflix获益。

    总之,苹果收购Netflix是桩合理交易,不过苹果得快点行动才行,以免真要收购时Netflix的规模变得太大,价格承担不起。(财富中文网)

    本文作者是一位商业评论家,曾在知名投行拉扎德和德利佳华就职,还曾供职于对冲基金RamiusCapital。他并未持有Netflix或苹果公司的股票。

    译者:Charlie

    审校:夏林

    Streaming video provider Netflix recently reported record subscriber growth of 2.3 million in the U.S. and 2.6 million internationally for the first quarter. The company now boasts 62 million subscribers worldwide. In response to the company’s rapid growth, FBR & Co. analyst Barton Crockett set a one-year price target of $900 a share for the company, a nearly 60% increase from its current level; and expects Netflixto reach 180 million global subscribers.

    Much of Netflix’s growth is being driven by its successful expansion overseas, as well as a rollout of new original programming series, such as Marvel’s Daredevil, Bloodline, and a renewal of existing hits like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. The company also stands to benefit from consumers who don’t want to be tied to expensive cable and satellite packages in order to secure their entertainment.

    But international expansion and compelling content require large capital outlays and ongoing expenses. Netflix’s content acquisition and creation costs are trending upwards and the company’s strategy of increasing its global footprint will carry a price until those markets become profitable. In other words, Netflix will need healthy amounts of cash in order to finance its foreseeable growth.

    For these reasons, the company is ripe for acquisition, and a company like Apple would be remiss if it didn’t seriously look into a deal. Apple has both the means and motivation to acquire Netflix, and while the movie and television business may not be Apple’s prime focus, it certainly can’t afford to stand on the sidelines while a player like Netflix takes over the market.

    Although Apple’s signature iTunes platform for video downloads is popular, carrying a wide selection of new movies and television shows, it doesn’t offer a subscription service along the lines of Netflix and is much more expensive. For example, a single season of a popular show can run $35 or more versus an $8.99 all-you-can-eat monthly pass to Netflix, which also allows you to watch other content. If Netflix’s subscriber base continues to grow as dramatically as it has, this can pose a threat to Apple, and so can the appeal of Netflix’s original programming (which iTunes carries, but at a hefty premium).

    True, if Apple acquired Netflix, it would cannibalize some of its iTunes business, but the alternative is to have that same business hijacked by an independent Netflix anyway. If consumers prefer Netflix, they have little, if any, reason to buy the same content on iTunes for a higher price; so right now those revenues simply go to Netflix. But by buying the company and controlling it, Apple could effectively cut those losses by ensuring that any content that is a big revenue-generator for iTunes is not replicated on Netflix. In this way, and also given that iTunes’ library is more comprehensive and current than the more uneven Netflix, the two services could easily be marketed as complementary to each other with iTunes’ competitive advantage being its wider selection and Netflix’s advantage being its lower priced subscription model and cutting edge series.

    There can also be marketing synergies between Netflix’s global subscriber base and Apple’s stable of technological products. New subscribers to Netflix could, say, receive a rebate on the latest iPad for signing up, or Apple could bundle a three-month subscription to Netflix with the purchase of Apple TV.

    That brings us to the means by which Apple could do an acquisition.

    With a market cap of more than $720 billion, Apple has $178 billion of cash on its balance sheet but is also trading close to its 5-year high, which makes its stock a strong currency for an acquisition. The technology giant could easily finance the buyout of Netflix, worth about $34.7 billion, with a mixture of cash and stock or even fully in stock. The key is that the relentless upward momentum of Apple’s own shares, not to mention its unprecedented success with new products, such as its smartwatch, would makes its stock an attractive form of payment for current Netflix shareholders

    A possible hurdle to an all-stock deal would be Apple’s price-to-earnings (PE) ratio. Based on 2015 estimated earnings and its stock price on April 20, 2015, Apple’s ratio was 14.5 times versus 176.8 times for Netflix. When a company with a lower PE ratio buys a company with a higher ratio, the deal is usually dilutive for the acquirer since it gets less bang for each dollar of its own earnings. However, this can be mitigated by the much smaller size of Netflix compared to Apple, as well as the future boost for Apple shares because of investors’ bullishness about Netflix’s growth prospects.

    In other words, acquiring an investor darling like Netflix might be expensive in the short haul but can boost Apple’s shares in the long term, especially if the company is successful at leveraging Netflix’s massive and growing user base to sell more Apple products. For its part, Netflix will certainly benefit from Apple’s exceptional marketing expertise, global reach, particularly in key markets, such as China. It would also benefit from access to cash on Apple’s balance sheet.

    It’s a logical match, but only if Apple moves quickly – before Netflix becomes too big, and too expensive, to be acquired.

    Sanjay Sanghoee is a business commentator. He has worked at investment banks Lazard Freres and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, as well as at hedge fund Ramius Capital. Sanjay does not own shares of Netflix or Apple.

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