We'll never hear the end of the buyout buzz when it comes to Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX). As long as it remains the top dog in premium video streaming and the niche is still booming there will always be chatter about how good Netflix would look on the arm of a tech or media giant.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is a potential buyer that comes up every so often, and it did so again in a CNBC article last night. Anita Balakrishnan's piece argues that the "best argument" for Apple buying Netflix is that App Store spending on entertainment programs is soaring, and the consumer tech giant may as well nab the top dog to beef up its growing services revenue.
Don't wait up for a wedding invitation.
A Motley Fool social media poll -- gauging investor opinions on a potential deal between Apple and Netflix -- has "No Chance" as the runaway answer with 48% of the votes among four choices as of last night.
Will Apple buy Netflix in 2017?— The Motley Fool (@themotleyfool) February 22, 2017
Let's go over a few of the reasons why Apple buying Netflix doesn't make a lot of sense.
1. Apple isn't going to play favorites
The CNBC article leans on data from Sensor Tower, showing that the App Store's Entertainment category saw spending soar 130% over the past year. Netflix's chunk of that business is growing even faster, going from $7.9 million in gross revenue during the fourth quarter of 2015 to more than $58 million a year later. Netflix began monetizing subscriptions through Apple's app marketplace during the fourth quarter of 2015.
The growth may seem impressive, but what will Apple be telegraphing if it snaps up Netflix? Developers turn to mobile marketplaces because of the level playing field. Fellow video apps may not feel that the playing field is very level with the top dog in Apple's arsenal.
Apple has homegrown apps in streaming entertainment. However, Apple Music is not the niche leader. Yes, it did buy Beats Music, but mostly for its headphones business. Apple buying Netflix could shift development by other platforms away from iOS.
2. Netflix may not move the needle at Apple
Apple has a ton of dough on its books. There is more than $246 billion in cash and marketable securities on its balance sheet, and between a president that may relax repatriation rules and a tech behemoth hungry for growth it may only be a matter of time before Apple goes on a shopping spree.
A purchase of Apple may seem to help with growth on the surface. Apple's revenue declined 7.7% in fiscal 2016, unlike Netflix which saw its top line soar by 30.2% last year. However, Netflix going from $6.8 billion to $8.8 billion last year would only be a drop in the bucket at Apple which went from $233.7 billion to $215.6 billion. The combined company would have seen its revenue decline 6.7% to $224.4 billion.
An argument could be made that Apple could use Netflix as a tool to drive hardware sales by making the service or some parts of the platform exclusive to iOS and MacOS, but that would also likely shave the total revenue at Netflix.
3. It's going to take a fat premium to nab Netflix
There are a couple of tech, cable, and media companies that could take advantage of Netflix's competitive position, and the purchase would be dilutive in all cases. However, it would probably be a lot more dilutive to the buyer than it appears at current market prices.
There's no reason for Netflix to settle for a modest buyout premium. This is a stock that was the S&P 500's biggest gainer in 2013 and 2015, more than doubling each year. It's up another 15% less than a sixth of the way through 2017. How much would you accept to punch out?
Netflix is a great company in a great place, but it's also a hot stock -- and that's not the kind of situation where shareholders will go along with a 20% to 30% premium. Apple is one of the few companies with that kind of dough in its arsenal, but you just know that Netflix will not come cheap. With a likely drawn-out regulatory approval process if a deal were to be announced, Netflix would be right to command a lot of money to be waiting in the wings while its stock has been one of the hottest stocks over the past four years. Apple and Netflix make sense, but it's just not going to happen.