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March 4, 2024

Paramount Faces $33 Billion Buyout Bid from Allianz-Apollo Group

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Feb 3, 2024

Paramount Global, one of the largest media conglomerates in the world, is fielding a $33 billion buyout offer from a consortium led by Apollo Global Management and the German insurer Allianz. The unsolicited bid was announced earlier today and sent Paramount’s stock price surging by over 15%.

Background on Paramount and Key Players

Paramount Global is a mass media behemoth controlling lucrative assets across film, television, streaming, publishing, and live events. The company’s dominant position across entertainment verticals is largely thanks to years of acquisitions and mergers orchestrated under the oversight of the Redstone family.

Sumner Redstone originally acquired a controlling stake in Paramount’s predecessor company, Viacom, in 1987 after a protracted takeover battle. When Viacom acquired CBS in 1999, the merged entity was christened ViacomCBS. Sumner Redstone’s daughter, Shari Redstone, inherited her father’s majority voting shares and board control over the company in 2016. She spearheaded the renaming of ViacomCBS to Paramount Global in 2022 to capitalize on Paramount Pictures’ 100-year Hollywood legacy.

Apollo Global Management is a high-profile private equity firm co-founded in 1990 by Leon Black, Joshua Harris, and Marc Rowan. Apollo made headlines in 2012 by acquiring Hostess Brands, makers of Twinkies snack cakes, out of bankruptcy. The firm has over $500 billion in assets under management across its credit, real estate, and equity platforms.

Allianz SE provides insurance and asset management services to over 100 million retail and corporate customers in more than 70 countries. The German multinational is one of the world’s largest insurers by assets, boasting over €2.7 trillion under management.

Details of the Buyout Offer

The acquisition offer delivered to Paramount’s board is reportedly worth $57 per share, which would value the company at around $33 billion including debt obligations. This represents a 39% premium over Paramount’s closing share price on February 2nd.

Apollo would contribute most of the equity financing for the deal, with Allianz providing preferred equity and/or debt financing. The German insurer may also acquire Paramount’s CBS broadcasting arm after the buyout closes.

The investor group believes Paramount Global possesses an unparalleled collection of franchises and intellectual property which aren’t being efficiently monetized. Apollo and Allianz think fresh leadership could better optimize Paramount’s assets and drive growth across its streaming platforms. Their bid letter highlighted synergies with Apollo’s existing entertainment portfolio companies, which include gaming, live events, hospitality, and film production entities.

Key Statistics on Buyout Offer
Equity Value $33 billion
Premium over Current Valuation 39%
Price Per Share $57
Financing Breakdown Apollo – majority equity
Allianz – preferred equity and/or debt
Apollo’s Portfolio Synergies Gaming, live events, hospitality, film production

Shari Redstone, Chairwoman of Paramount Global, has built a reputation on Wall Street for exerting tight control over the family’s media empire. It remains unclear whether financial pressure from restive institutional investors will compel Redstone to seriously entertain this unsolicited takeover approach.

Background on Recent Pressure Facing Paramount Leadership

Paramount Global has faced intensifying doubts over its standalone prospects given sluggish growth, governance concerns, and competitive threats in the streaming space. The company’s share price sank over 50% across 2022 amid subscriber losses.

Activist investor MarvinDavis Fund Management initiated a proxy contest in April 2022 aiming to overhaul Paramount’s board with directors focused on enhancing shareholder returns. The campaign garnered support from partners at hedge fund Strategic Value Partners.

While MarvinDavis ultimately withdrew its board challenge in June 2022 after reaching a cooperation agreement, tensions continued simmering due to ongoing stock underperformance. Strategic Value Partners exited its stake in frustration this January.

The poor share price action indicates Wall Street’s skepticism whether Shari Redstone has the operational expertise to transform Paramount Global for the streaming era. Activists believe the company should explore strategic alternatives, including partial asset sales or an outright sale of the entire company.

Redstone has insisted that Paramount+ is key to the company’s future and denied any interest in breaking up her family’s media empire. However, behind the scenes there are signs that bankers have been quietly running financial models on divestiture options to appease unhappy shareholders.

Fallout from Deal Reports – Surging Share Price and Leadership Questions

Trading in Paramount Global shares was briefly halted today after reports of the Apollo buyout offer leaked. When trading resumed, the stock skyrocketed over 17% to close at $53.95.

At that closing price, Paramount sports a market capitalization of $35 billion. The company would need to fetch an approximately $40 billion enterprise valuation for Apollo’s $57 per share bid to make financial sense. There is therefore uncertainty whether the private equity firms are willing to raise their offer.

Wall Street analysts have published diverging opinions on how Paramount’s leadership should respond. Bullish analysts think the bid grievously undervalues Paramount’s unique collection of assets and intellectual property. They expect the board to reject the offer in hopes of negotiating a much higher valuation.

Other analysts argue that today’s bump reverses much of the recent slide, restoring Paramount close to 2021 peak valuations. Given long-term concerns about the core business, accepting a generous premium at this juncture provides good risk-adjusted value. These analysts believe hiring bankers to run an open auction makes strategic sense.

There is also intense media speculation whether Shari Redstone has the desire to relinquish family control even if the board pushes for a sale. Redstone currently owns 10% of Paramount’s common equity personally and controls another 70% of voting power through a family trust.

What’s Next – Auction Prospects and Regulatory Angle

The ball is now in Paramount’s court to formally respond to the buyout consortium. It remains unclear whether Apollo and Allianz have fully secured financing or if their offer letter was a “bear hug” designed to flush out higher bids.

Most analysts expect Paramount’s board to recruit investment banks like LionTree and Allen & Company to initiate a confidential auction process. The goal would be soliciting offers from a range of strategic and financial buyers to maximize value.

Comcast, Netflix, Apple, and Amazon have all been floated as potential bidders given increasing convergence across media, telecom, and technology. Private equity firms like Blackstone or KKR could also pursue a leveraged buyout strategy. Industry players may bid jointly through club deals as well. Regulatory risk presents the biggest wildcard in any deal.

Paramount owning the CBS broadcast network triggers important public interest considerations like preserving media diversity. CBS and Paramount Pictures are both historic American institutions dating back close to a century.

Federal communications regulators could pressure bidders to divest certain assets or operate CBS with “public trustee” principles guaranteeing news integrity. Antitrust agencies may also mandate asset sales, especially regarding streaming market power, before blessing any deal. Navigating the regulatory gauntlet could prove challenging for buyers.

The next few weeks promise to be extremely eventful for Paramount Global as speculation swirls over the company’s future. While the ultimate outcome remains uncertain, Shari Redstone is facing intense pressure to maximize value for long-suffering shareholders. Paramount reaching the end of the Redstone era after 30 years of family control would mark a pivotal shift in Hollywood’s corporate landscape.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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