Updated: Wall Street analysts usually find gentle ways to tell clients when they consider a deal rumor in the press beyond the pale. But one media watcher didn’t hold back this morning in a note challenging a New York Post story over the weekend that said Verizon “may be eyeing a Disney purchase.”
RBC Capital Markets analyst Steven Cahall says that although the story is “not fake news,” he’d “advise investors to assign the Post‘s report a low probability” — adding that they could “do their own channel checks at the the Algonquin, the Grill and Monkey Bar,” which are popular gathering places for New York’s media elite.
Traders seem mildly intrigued by the idea of a Verizon-Disney deal, which the Post characterized as a “rumor making the rounds.” Disney shares closed up 1.1% in abbreviated pre-holiday trading, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 was up 0.2%.
The Post cited a “well-placed banker” who said that Verizon might be on the prowl now that it has closed its acquisition of Yahoo.
The story acknowledges that a run at Disney, with a market value of nearly $170 billion, “sounds fantastical.” But a “media observer” says that Verizon needs content “to shore up its mobile ad ambitions.”
Verizon’s chief rival, AT&T, is awaiting federal approval for its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner.
Cahall scoffs that the Post‘s banker source is “probably well-placed at 5th Avenue’s Polo Bar in a pair of brightly colored pants,” adding that “the Post‘s burden of legitimacy for publishing such ideas is below that of publications like the WSJ, Reuters and Bloomberg.”
He gives the Post some credit, though, saying it “occasionally gets these M&A calls right: For example, we think it was one of the first publications to break the news that CBS and Viacom were being asked to hold combination talks last summer, following its investigative efforts into media moguls over martinis the 21 Club.”
The Post‘s Claire Atkinson, a well-sourced veteran on the media business beat, tweets that Cahall’s report is “entertaining.” She adds, though, that she “never had martinis at 21 Club or know any bankers in bright pants.”
This afternoon Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker joined Cahall in jeering the Post’s report.
When she saw the story, she says, “we laughed. Out loud. In fact, we’re still laughing. What would a wireless juggernaut want with a theme park, a YUGE consumer products line and the various movie studios?…. No. We do NOT believe [Verizon] is contemplating the purchase of [Disney]. Perhaps the NY Post mistook the 4th of July for April Fools.”