The New York Post is reporting rumors that the younger members of the Bancroft family, which owns 62% voting control of Dow Jones
While the newspaper story uses an unidentified source, the pressure to sell has probably been heightened since the company's shareholders meeting in April. At the meeting, shareholders approved a measure that allowed the family to retain voting control of the company even if it opted to sell shares. The family's shares have 10 times the voting rights of the shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
It has been a difficult time for newspapers. The New York Times
Look at this five-year chart of Dow Jones' stock and you'll see why family members would like to sell. Dow Jones has gone nowhere -- although it was up about 9% in afternoon trading.
The company's second-quarter results were disappointing, with revenue ahead a mere 3.7% and earnings down $0.07 a share (after accounting for one-time charges). The good news since then is that declining ad revenue at The Wall Street Journal was reversed, at least for one month, with a 0.8% increase in July.
To stem losses, the company recently signed an agreement to transfer to General Electric's
While the Post's story moved the stock today, one question is unanswered. How much is Dow Jones worth? The stock is already trading at 28.6 times 2006 estimated earnings. Why would someone want to pay substantially more than that for a set of assets that, on the whole, are performing poorly? And where would speculators be if only a fraction of the company is sold?
Though the newspaper industry and Dow Jones have been beset by declining ad revenue and concern over speculation recently, there is perhaps some rationale for the company's premium valuation. After all, the Journal represents one of the world's pre-eminent business publications, and Wall Street Journal Asia seems positioned for strong growth. Furthermore, the MarketWatch purchase has positioned the company to take advantage of continuing growth in Internet traffic for news purposes.
But for now, the best place to be, in this analyst's opinion, is on the sidelines watching.
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