Talk about a Discovery-Scripps Networks deal appears to be premature. Discovery execs are engaged in what-if conversations about the idea of bidding for the owner of HGTV and Food Network. But the company hasn’t prepared an offer, and doesn’t have bankers working on one, as it focuses on opportunities to expand its clout overseas, I’m told. Are Discovery execs intrigued by Scripps? Sure — its lifestyle programming could complement Discovery’s. And everyone’s weighing M&A at a time when interest rates are so low. So never say never. But there’s been no fundamental change recently. That may disappoint investors who became excited by Variety‘s report that Discovery’s considering a play for Scripps. Its shares rose 7.6% today to $81 — after touching an all time high of $85.73. Analysts had mixed reactions to the deal talk. Citigroup’s Jason Bazinet downgraded Scripps to “sell,” saying that Discovery’s focus on international expansion makes the excitement about a bid “unwarranted.” Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger says that there’s a “persuasive strategic rationale” for a combo if Discovery can help open doors overseas for Scripps’ networks. Moffett Nathanson Research’s Michael Nathanson says that both companies have been grappling with soft ratings, so a deal “could help change the near-term U.S. narrative” to potential cost synergies. Wunderlicht Securities’ Matthew Harrigan is intrigued by Discovery’s “heft for affiliate fee wrangles” with cable and satellite distributors. And Macquarie Securities’ Amy Yong says that Scripps is “an undervalued and under appreciated franchise” that Discovery could easily afford with about $7B in debt.
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