Nelson peltz has made a name for himself by locking horns with some of the biggest companies in the us, including procter & gamble, pepsi, general electric and dupont.
Now the activist investor has set his sights on comcast. mr peltzs investment firm trian fund management is understood to have amassed about 20m shares or a 0.4 per cent stake in the $200bn media conglomerate controlling nbcuniversal and sky.
The holding is small, leaving trian outside comcasts top 25 shareholders. trian has made no proposals yet. but whatever mr peltz has in mind, comcast should prove a tough target.
The shareholder structure presents a challenge. comcast chairman and chief executive brian roberts, with the rest of his family, control a third of the voting rights.
Then there is the business itself. comcast is having a decent pandemic. true, its nbcuniversal division has suffered as advertisers pulled back spending, sports events were cancelled, and theme parks and movie theatres shut down.
But the bulk of profits come from comcasts cable communications unit which includes broadband internet and pay cable tv. this accounted for over half of group revenue and 68 per cent of ebitda last year. cable broadband has remained a bright spot during the pandemic after an unprecedented jump in demand for high speed internet. profit margins and ebitda both rose for the unit during the june quarter. it expects to add over 500,000 us broadband customers in the period to september, a quarterly record.
Comcasts shares have rebounded and trade near their january highs. yet on a price-to-forward earnings multiple comcasts 14 times trails the 31 times commanded by its rival charter communications, which has no exposure to the media business.
Mr peltz could well argue that unwinding past pricey media acquisitions and relisting underperforming businesses like nbcuniversal and sky would allow markets to value correctly comcasts core cable and internet business. communicating the need to close up that valuation disparity to the roberts family will be the harder task.
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