Analyst Downgrades Fox Stock, Citing 'Deal Limbo'

ISI Media's Vijay Jayant removes his "top pick" designation, while another analyst says she still likes Fox's stock despite "some fear of empire building."

I‎SI Media analyst Vijay Jayant on Thursday downgraded his rating on the stock of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox from "strong buy" to "buy," saying it will remain in "deal limbo" after the rebuffed $80 billion bid for Time Warner.

The analyst also removed his "top pick" designation for the stock, while increasing his target on the stock of Time Warner to $92 from $77 after the stock closed at $83.13 on Wednesday.

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"While the industrial logic for this transaction appears to be positive for Fox over the long term, it does change the short/medium-term expected narrative," Jayant wrote in a report. Instead of a recent focus on earnings growth and "the potential for high return of capital," investors will now focus on Fox's next moves on the deal front, he argued. 

"The Fox narrative has changed, and the stock likely will remain in deal limbo for some time," Jayant predicted.

"In our experience, if Mr. Rupert Murdoch wants an asset, he will wait and pay to get it," the analyst added, pointing to past deals for Dow Jones and DirecTV. "As a permanent shareholder, Mr. Murdoch’s vision on what is the right strategy/asset portfolio is therefore longer than many investment horizons."

Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker, meanwhile, said on Thursday that she remains bullish on Fox.

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"We still like Fox despite sentiment," she said. "There is clearly some fear of “empire building” as evidenced by yesterday’s pullback" in the stock. Fox's stock fell 4.6 percent to $32.57, while the broad S&P 500 stock index rose.

"Look, we get it given Rupert Murdoch’s history," Ryvicker said about investor concerns. "But TW is CONTENT, which is a CORE ASSET for Fox, and the deal is accretive even at a much higher price." Over time, she predicted the stock would outperform others again.

She also predicted that TW could go much higher from its Wednesday closing price. "Fox's bid clearly underscores the value of the TW portfolio, which we didn’t think the market fully appreciated before. While we don’t know TW’s overall “plans,” we do think the company is in a good position to negotiate a higher purchase price," Ryvicker said.

She also commented on some Wall Street observers' suggestion that a deal could be agreed if Fox offers $100 per share for Time Warner. Said the analyst: "We think TW [stock] has found a new “floor” with the potential to go to $100 per share or above."

Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Tony Wible on Thursday upgraded his stock rating on TW from "neutral" to "buy."

"We believe Fox will increase its bid for TW as we see earnings accretion on an all-stock deal valued up to $160 per share," he said. "This transaction is one of the few mega-cap ones that makes both too much strategic and financial sense to ignore. Essentially, there is significant room to negotiate a higher price before a deal would dilute earnings."

Explaining his upgrade of TW shares further, Wible said: "We believe investors will increasingly value it on its strategic benefits rather than the near-term fundamentals. The potential upside from its strategic value to Fox leads us to raise our fair value [stock estimate]  to $100."

Twitter: @georgszalai