Viacom, the venerable media giant with a cratering share price, is looking into a deal to sell a minority stake in Paramount Pictures, Viacom chief executive Philippe Dauman said at an investor conference Tuesday.
At the Jefferies Media & Communications Conference in New York, Dauman said Viacom has been approached by interested parties, and he hopes to have a deal by the end of the third quarter. Viacom will maintain control of Paramount, which had the smallest market share among the “Big Six” studios last year. Dauman said he has engaged PJT Partners to help consummate a deal.
Potentially interested parties could include Apple, Amazon and Chinese conglomerate Alibaba Group, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence report. An investment by Alibaba or another Chinese media company, such as the Dalian Wanda Group or Tencent, would fit with the recent trend of Chinese firms signing coproduction deals or investing outright in Hollywood studios and production companies. Wanda Group bought a majority stake in “Hunger Games” production company Legendary Entertainment for more than $3 billion last month.
Viacom acquired Paramount for about $10 billion in 1994, but the company has been under pressure to cash out some of its assets as its cable networks and movie business have struggled. Its shares tumbled about 46 percent over the past 52 weeks. Shares spiked on the news that the company is pursuing a deal, but were only up about 1 percent in afternoon trading Tuesday.
Viacom board member Mario Gabelli welcomed the announcement in a Tuesday tweet, calling it a “logical first step.”
Viacom (VIA) ...announced logical first step ...monetize Paramount Via JV ....have partner bring in cash and digital distribution know how
— Mario Gabelli (@MarioGabelli) February 23, 2016