Depending on whom you listen to, Liberty trades at 25% to 37% below its net asset value -- an awfully big discount. The reason: Its asset portfolio -- a hodgepodge of public and private media, broadcasting, and telecom operations scattered around the world -- is far too complex to value with any precision. So, by cutting loose a bunch of overseas businesses as a separate stock, Chairman and legendary dealmaker John Malone hopes to give investors a better view of what the conglomerate is really made of.
For every 20 Liberty Media shares they own, investors receive one share of the spinoff, Liberty Media International, in the tax-free deal. The new shares will start trading on Nasdaq on June 8.
A quick look at the spinoff's major holdings suggests an equity value of about $5.5 billion, or $34 per share. In theory, that means Liberty Media will shed about $2.00 per share to reflect the loss of those assets. But it could be less if the deal unlocks value.
Indeed, there is upside potential. For starters, the deal adds much-needed disclosure to these international businesses. Malone has hinted that he will take Jupiter Communications public in the near future.
Secondly, new shares offer added exposure to UnitedGlobalCom, a cable company with nearly 10 million cable subscribers across Europe, Latin America, and the Pacific region, plus Jupiter Communications and Jupiter Programming, with more than 1.5 million customers in Japan. All told, the spinoff amounts to a big global cable company, outranked only by Comcast
At the current price, Liberty is a safe stock, with little downside risk. The spinoff breaks Liberty into more digestible pieces, for sure. But while the pieces appear to be worth more than the whole, it's still hard to get a sense of how much more.
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Fool contributor Ben McClure hails from the Great White North. He doesn't own shares of any companies mentioned here.