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3 Reasons Why Disney Isn't Buying Netflix

By Rick Munarriz - Oct 4, 2016 at 9:05AM

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A new rumor claims that the family-friendly media giant is going to purchase the leading video streaming service. It's a proposed acquisition that doesn't make sense.

Image source: Disney.

Disney (DIS 1.64%) may want to cast itself as the next star of ABC's The Bachelor. Everyone seems to be trying to fix the media giant up these days. Last week, the hot chatter was the handiwork of sources telling Bloomberg that Twitter (TWTR 3.91%) was in its crosshairs. This week, the new rumor is that the media giant may have its sights set on snapping up Netflix (NFLX 4.15%).

The speculative frenzy began percolating over the weekend, and it was enough to send Netflix over $100 -- its highest close since May. Disney buying Twitter never made sense. This pairing is even less logical. Let's go over a few of the reasons why Disney isn't buying Netflix.

1. It would make it harder for Netflix to do business

A popular knock on the proposed pairing with Twitter is that it would result in other media companies easing up when it comes to promoting on the social media platform. Why would they invest financial and creative resources in talking up Twitter if it would only make a Disney-owned company a louder social megaphone? 

The concern made sense in talking down Twitter as a potential suitor last week, and it makes even more sense with Netflix now. Netflix has unmatched numbers when it comes to premium streaming subscribers, with nearly 80 million paying accounts as of the end of June. Rival studios would miss out on big-time money if they pulled content from the platform, but if keeping top shows and movies away from Netflix help make this a more competitive marketplace for rival streaming services, won't it be the studios that ultimately win? Studios have been hesitant to yield so much power to Netflix, and they will be even more reluctant if it means Disney's the beneficiary. 

A Disney-owned Netflix would be a streaming service that would have to pay more for content in the future, and that's not going to work.

2. Netflix could be dilutive to earnings for years

One of the three concerns I have with Disney buying Twitter is that it would be dilutive to earnings. It would send Disney's forward earnings multiple ballooning from 15 to 18 in an all-stock deal. The math is even more painful in a Disney-buying-Netflix scenario.

Netflix trades at loftier earnings multiples than Twitter -- closer to 120 than 40 -- and it also already commands a much larger market cap. Assuming that there are no game-changing realized synergies, we would be talking about Disney's earnings multiple for 2017 blowing up from 15 to more than 40. 

There's more to assessing a stock's worth than its earnings multiple, but for Disney's historically conservative investors, it could lead to an exodus. Is landing Netflix worth the stampede out of the stock? 

3. Netflix won't come cheap, if it comes at all

You can't buy what isn't for sale. It's easy to see why Twitter could be on the block. User base has slowed dramatically, and the stock is coming off of back-to-back quarters of sharp declines in 2014 and 2015. Buyout speculation is the only reason why the stock is finally trading marginally higher in 2016. 

Netflix is in another league. It was the S&P 500's biggest winner in 2013 and again in 2015. Netflix stock has been sluggish this year, but it's hard to discount a stock that was last year's biggest winner.

Is Neflix technically available? Sure. Every stock can be had at the right price. The problem here is that it's easy to see why shareholders would expect a fat premium on the stock in a buyout, and that would make an already expensive stock prohibitive to most blue chips.

Netflix is a quality company, and it's one of the many that would be worthy of a red rose on Disney-owned ABC's The Bachelor. However, if Twitter and Netflix are the most attractive options, it should not come as a surprise if Disney chooses to stay a swinging single. 

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Stocks Mentioned

Netflix, Inc. Stock Quote
Netflix, Inc.
$187.83 (4.15%) $7.49
The Walt Disney Company Stock Quote
The Walt Disney Company
$103.26 (1.64%) $1.67
Twitter, Inc. Stock Quote
Twitter, Inc.
$37.16 (3.91%) $1.40

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