Viacom Stock Hits Highest Price Since CBS Split

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NEW YORK - Shares of Viacom hit their highest price in more than five years on Wednesday as Wall Street analysts continue to be bullish on the company and its stock.

Amid a market rally due to strong earnings reports across sectors, Class B shares of Viacom, led by president and CEO Philippe Dauman, hit $48.45 early in the day, their highest price since the split of Viacom and CBS at the start of 2006. The stock then gave up most of its gains to close up a more modest 0.5% at $47.78, which gave the company a market value of $28.8 billion, according to Bloomberg.

Before the market open on Wednesday, Davenport & Co. analyst Michael Morris issued a report entitled "Viacom's Time to Shine," in which he reiterated his "buy" rating on the stock and boosted his target price by $4 to $54. He cited continued ratings momentum at the company's cable networks, thanks to such hit shows as MTV's Jersey Shore, among others, and expectations of a stronger upfront advertising haul than last year.

"Viacom currently sits at an operating sweet spot given strong ratings growth over the past several quarters at MTV, a robust kids’ upfront market, a solid film lineup and an attractive valuation," the analyst wrote. "Viacom’s domestic ad growth and strong position into the upfront remain underappreciated relative to more expensively priced cable network businesses (Scripps Networks, Discovery)."

Ratings improvements will help the company strike upfront deals "from a position of power relative to the 2010 process when we believe price increases were among industry lows," he argued.

Plus, "Viacom’s higher relative exposure to film, toys and telco and lower auto exposure have the nets better positioned into the strong summer film and consumer products cycle," Morris said.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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