Warner Music Group Corp.’ stock price is climbing, but it’s not because of some positive change in the long-struggling music industry.
The double-digit gain is because Warner Music is up for sale, several Wall Street analysts said.
At least 10 bids were reportedly submitted for the company, spun off from Time Warner Inc. in 2004, and are believed to be in the area of $3 billion. The company’s stock rose by 10 percent to $7.61 for the week ended April 13, making it one of the top 10 gainers on the LABJ Index. (See page 36). For the four-week period ended April 13, shares were up 37 percent.
Warner Music has 3,700 employees and is headquartered in New York, but most of its operations are in Burbank. Its current hit makers include Linkin Park and Faith Hill, while its vast library includes music by Frank Sinatra and the Eagles.
The company is widely reported to be in the process of reviewing the purchase offers.
“It’s been great how many people have shown up for the company,” said Laura A. Martin, media analyst at New York brokerage Needham & Co. Inc. “Once these music companies are sold, there isn’t another you can buy if you miss the chance. You can’t build these from scratch anymore. These libraries are too valuable.”
Material from a company’s library of recorded music can continue to be sold in any format, including digitally, long after initial releases.
Warner Music has not confirmed it’s for sale, but the widespread belief is that both its recorded music divisions and its Santa Monica publishing firm, Warner/Chappell Music, are on the block. Warner/Chappell owns the rights to the works of such artists as Eric Clapton, Green Day and Lil Wayne.
Publishing rights are valuable to both the company and the artist because of music licensing opportunities. Songs can be sold for use in commercials, TV shows and films.
Warner Music has debt of $1.94 billion and market capitalization of $1.12 billion. Martin thinks the company’s stock price could continue to climb as much as 15 percent.
“There is still upside from here,” she said.
Marla Backer, an analyst with New York-based Hudson Square Research, agreed.
“I guess until we know something definitive, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the stock move up more, even though it’s already had a nice move,” Backer said.
But Tuna N. Amobi, senior media and entertainment analyst at Standard & Poor’s Equity Research in New York, doesn’t expect the stock to climb much higher than its current level even if a sale goes through in the $2.7 billion-$3.2 billion range.
“I would estimate anywhere from 25 percent to 30 percent of the current trading price of the share is reflected in takeover premium,” Amobi said. “If there’s any indication a deal won’t go through, I’d suspect the shares will decline quite dramatically.”
Warner Music did not respond to a request for comment.
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