One of last year's more popular proposed pairings is making a comeback in 2017, as talk renews that Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) could acquire Twitter (NYSE:TWTR). Spanish media group Intereconomia is reporting that Disney is open to paying $17 billion for the social-media giant, a premium of nearly 40% based on Friday's close.
Sources were telling Bloomberg four months ago that Disney was working with a financial advisor to evaluate a potential bid for Twitter, and that development failed to materialize, despite the seemingly convenient though possibly awkward relationship that would have come about from having Twitter founder Jack Dorsey on Disney's board of directors.
Anything can happen, and Disney isn't afraid to spend billions on acquisitions. However, it's hard to see how this deal could ever come to fruition. Let's go over a few of the reasons Disney isn't likely to gobble up Twitter.
1. This isn't Disney's kind of deal
Disney doesn't shy away from big deals. It spent $15.5 billion on hit factories Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, but all three of those transactions fortified its character franchises. Twitter doesn't arm its ecosystem with another Nemo, Hulk, or Kylo.
Is Twitter really worth more than all of those deals combined? The only Disney deal that comes close to the proposed $17 billion value was its $19 billion purchase of Capital Cities/ABC, a transaction that would be worth a lot more in today's dollars. But that was still a monumental coupling that added ABC, ESPN, and other game-changing broadcasting properties to Disney's fold. Twitter is an important broadcasting platform, but it would be nowhere near as lucrative as Capital Cities/ABC was for the media behemoth.
2. Disney could alienate other media heavyweights
Twitter works because it's media mogul-agnostic. Entertainment companies and stars flock to Twitter as a promotional springboard, knowing there are no conflicts of interest.
Leaning on Twitter as a free outlet may seem ill-advised for Disney's rivals if Disney made the purchase, since relying on Twitter could benefit a competitor. The upshot: As ho-hum as Twitter's growth has been lately, it could be even worse under the House of Mouse.
3. Twitter poses risks to Disney's brand
There's a dark side to Twitter -- pockets of darkness that are typically visible only to those who are seeking porn links, hatemongering, and a marketplace of hacked Twitter handles. Sometimes the underbelly is on open display as folks respond to polarizing tweets.
To that end, cleaning house may have been part of the reasoning behind Twitter's recent decision to nix Vine. Yet there are still plenty of risks on Twitter. So as a buyer, Disney would put itself in a lose-lose situation in that it would either get called out for censorship or become liable when things got out of hand.
4. Dilution can be significant
Twitter is trading at a discount to its 2013 IPO price of $26, but it's not cheap by most standards. The stock is trading for 28 times projected earnings for the year ahead. That's not bad, but it's not Disney at 16 times next fiscal year's profit target. An all-stock deal would be dilutive.
Paying 28 times forward earnings for Twitter would've made sense when it was a fast-growing company, but that's not the case these days. User growth has slowed to a crawl, and its ability to milk more money out of its advertisers is peaking. Analysts see revenue growing 9.9% in 2017. In short, Disney could find platforms growing a lot faster than Twitter to acquire, and it probably should.