The stock was up nearly 3% in a flat-to-down market late morning. Trian has acquired 20 million shares — or an 0.4% stake — in the NBCUniversal parent.
A Trian spokesperson said the firm “believes Comcast’s stock is undervalued. We have recently begun what we believe are constructive discussions with Comcast’s management team and look forward to continuing those discussions.”
Comcast declined to comment on Trian’s stake, news of which emerged Monday.
So, it’s not clear what the “constructive discussions” entail. Comcast like most companies has been slammed by COVID. But it’s been streamlining and cutting costs in media and entertainment. With broadband continuing to grow, sports back and advertising off its lows, CEO Brian Roberts was upbeat about prospects at a media conference last week.
He described Universal theme parks as the hardest hit and likely slowest to recover segment of the company. Universal Orlando and Osaka are open with attendance about 25% of their pre-pandemic level and Roberts acknowledged many people may choose not to return until there’s vaccine.
Analysts have noted the substantial debt Comcast took on in the nearly $40 billion acquisition of Sky two years ago.
Comcast continued to pay a dividend but hasn’t resumed stock buybacks as some other media companies have.
Trian CEO Peltz and his partners Ed Garden and Peter May are known for acquiring stakes in companies and pushing them to divest underperforming businesses or split up, sometimes taking a board seat. Past targets include PepsiCo (Trian unsuccessfully lobbied for the company to split off Frito Lay from the soda business), Procter & Gamble and General Electric.
Activist investors have eyed media in the past. Most recently, Elliott Management pushed for changes at AT&T. Daniel Loeb’s Third Point for years pressured Sony to split. Trian’s approach is said to be lower key.
Trian currently beneficially owns approximately 20 million shares of Comcas