On the day after Disney’s game-changing takeover of most of 21st Century Fox for $66B, including debt, the merger’s likely toll on the combined workforce is starting to become more clear.
Rich Greenfield, an analyst with BTIG who has long been a bee in Disney’s bonnet, believes at least 5,000 or as many as 10,000 jobs could be at stake.
The analyst, who has damaged Disney stock before by highlighting subscriber losses at ESPN, among other issues, issued a new report today titled, “Disney’s $2 Billion in Synergies is Good for Jobs #FakeNews.” The headline and hashtag refer to a comment yesterday from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. President Donald Trump, a longtime ally of Rupert Murdoch, called the Fox mogul to congratulate him, enthusing that the deal “could be a great thing for jobs,” Sanders told incredulous reporters at a briefing.
“Disney expects over $2 billion in synergies from the Fox acquisition, with the overwhelming majority of that from cost-savings–meaning job cuts,” Greenfield wrote. While the expected reduction of film releases is itself a form of job shrinkage, more significant layoffs are on the horizon. “In order to reduce costs by upwards of $2 billion, we believe Disney will need to cut well-over 5,000 jobs and the number could easily swell toward 10,000 given the high degree of overlap between the two companies around the world.”
A report from MoffettNathanson estimates the cost synergies could be closer to $2.5 billion.
While the Writers Guild of America and other groups have blasted the deal on everything from anti-trust to anti-family grounds, Greenfield has put a finer point on the job numbers. According to its most recent annual report, Disney’s global workforce is 195,000. Fox’s is 22,000, per its latest annual report.
In a memo to employees yesterday, Rupert Murdoch all but acknowledged that layoffs were coming. “We are deeply committed to finding opportunities for our people as well as ensuring that anyone impacted is well taken care of,” Murdoch he wrote.
Disney chief Bob Iger highlighted “efficiencies” from the deal yesterday, but indicated they would be achieved over a longer timeframe. Regulatory approval is not expected until 2019 and the full integration will take effect in 2021.
Greenfield isn’t the only bear on Disney. Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research published a report today reaffirming his sell rating on Disney, explaining that its portfolio has liabilities in a tech-driven world, regardless of how streamlined the workforce becomes. He forecasts “ongoing margin compression for the company’s media networks businesses, both because of rising costs for sports rights and programming more generally.” He added, “Direct to consumer media offerings are likely to be lower margin than legacy business models.”
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