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Time Warner Targets Growth Abroad

By Michael Lewis - Apr 18, 2013 at 8:00PM

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While the company sheds its poor performers, it looks to expand its core business.

Investors and analysts who are following Time Warner (TWX) have likely been following the upcoming spin-off of the conglomerate's magazine division, Time. It's a tough sell to even the most avid spin-off investor, given that the magazine industry is in complete upheaval, and many of Time's properties are struggling. But, as the market focuses and derides this pending event, there's a more intriguing story on the horizon. As growth in Time Warner's cable and studio business is softening in the United States, the company's management is looking abroad for patches of growth. Now the company is reportedly preparing a $1 billion bid for a Turkish TV network. Could this bring a big boost to Time Warner shares?

Shrinking and Expanding
Time Warner has been a busy business in recent years -- spinning off Time Warner Cable, the broadband cable provider, as well as Internet pioneer company AOL. The remaining entity (excluding the magazines), Time Warner, is a collection of cable television properties and the movie studio Warner Brothers. The de-consolidation appears to have been a success thus far, with the company trading at its 52-week highs, and posting a two-year gain of nearly 70%.

While it sheds its non-core assets, though, Time Warner looks to expand in its remaining units. The company is reportedly in talks to acquire Turkey's ATV network --currently owned by Istanbul-based Calik Holdings. The news of ATV's sale is not new -- Goldman Sachs was hired over a year ago to shop the company to potential buyers. At this point, there appears to be just two suitors left -- Time Warner, and Dubai-based Abraaj Capital.

In the United States, Time Warner, and other television businesses, face extreme competition, as well as technological disruption to their business models. They need to look elsewhere to maintain growth and keep pushing the envelope. As Turkey's second biggest media company, ATV could be very valuable to Time Warner.

Will it happen, and should you buy the rumor?
The talks are currently private, and sources all have remained anonymous. Time Warner, Calik, and representatives of Goldman Sachs have shied away from reporters until a formal deal can be announced.

Jeffrey Bewkes, though, has done a great job with the company since stepping in and reversing much of what happened under his predecessors. The company is making more cash and more free cash flow, and the elements that were bloating the company are almost all gone at this point. In an industry that's constantly being turned upside down, Bewkes has taken a legacy player and made it competitive in today's market. This is not to suggest that the ATV acquisition is a guaranteed win for the company, but I do put a certain degree faith in the CEO's M&A decisions.

As a pure play on TV and film, Time Warner may be headed for greater things with smart international expansion.

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