At the Reuters Tech Summit, Trulia chief executive Pete Flint says private equity investors are starting to pull back from buying U.S. real estate, while overseas buyers are coming on strong once again. Video
- Special Report: Syria's Islamists seize control as moderates dither
- Angelina Jolie stunt double sues News Corp over hacking
- Global shares flat, dollar steady before Fed decision
- Man accused of kidnapping Cleveland women to face more charges
- Kanye West wins over critics with 'daring' new album 'Yeezus'
News Corp, CBS in spotlight at Sun Valley
NEW YORK/SUN VALLEY, Idaho |
NEW YORK/SUN VALLEY, Idaho (Reuters) - News Corp's Rupert Murdoch and CBS Corp's Leslie Moonves will likely be under a harsh spotlight at this year's gathering of media business chiefs in Sun Valley, Idaho.
The conference, organized by boutique investment bank Allen & Co, is supposed to be a retreat for the biggest names in the business, but not everyone will get to relax as the recession, restless investors and aggressive Internet competitors put media CEOs under pressure.
Who could forget the photo of Yahoo Inc's Jerry Yang at the Sun Valley Lodge last year, with his head in his hands as he tried to fight off an unsolicited takeover bid from Microsoft Corp?
This year, investors and analysts say Murdoch and Moonves are among those most under scrutiny, even though all media moguls from Viacom Inc's Sumner Redstone to InterActiveCorp/IAC's Barry Diller are grappling with the sharp slide in advertising spending.
Investors know that an investment in News Corp is a bet on Murdoch the visionary, as well as a wager on Murdoch the unpredictable entrepreneur.
In particular, investors have started to question his love for the struggling newspaper business, best highlighted by the $5 billion acquisition of Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co in 2007.
"This is a company that probably has made a couple of deals too far," said Larry Haverty, portfolio manager at Gabelli Global Multimedia Fund. "I think if he swears off the deals, the stock will put on 25 percent."
But Haverty, who said he has known Murdoch for 25 years, doubts there's any chance of the 78-year-old executive would make such a promise.
Even Murdoch's purchase of MySpace in 2005, then seen as a bold move into social networking, has failed to deliver the results investors have hoped for. MySpace's once-rapid user growth has slowed and it has been overtaken by Facebook, forcing several rounds of job cuts to reduce costs.
Wall Street is hoping that Chase Carey, the former chief executive of DirecTV Group who started as Murdoch's number two this month, will be able to guide his boss from making expensive mistakes.
"News Corp is certainly under a lot of pressure, they have a new management team and they have not performed well," said a senior media investment banker, who asked not to be identified because his company competes with Allen & Co.
News Corp shares have fallen more than 40 percent in the last year, underperforming Time Warner and Viacom, which are down nearly 30 percent in line with the S&P 500 index.
Shares of CBS, which is controlled by Redstone, are down more than 60 percent in the past 12 months despite something of a recovery in recent weeks as some investors look to a recovery of the ad market.
With U.S. advertising spending estimated to fall some 12 percent to 15 percent this year, it has been very difficult for broadcast TV networks as viewers also migrate to cable and the Internet.
CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves is seen as the poster-child of the beleaguered advertising-led media business model, with more than 60 percent of revenues coming from a mix of broadcast TV, billboards and radio advertising.
While Redstone has a record of unexpectedly firing some of his senior executives, media watchers do not see Moonves' job on the line -- for now.
"Les Moonves is not so much in the hot seat as is his business model, which is leveraged to the advertising environment," said David Joyce, an analyst at Miller Tabak.
Moonves, described as the consummate salesman, has tried to modernize CBS with acquisitions like CNET and Last.fm, but they have yet to contribute meaningfully to profits.
"I'll be surprised if CBS sucks up a lot of oxygen at Sun Valley, they're not a pacesetter in any way," said Tuna Amobi, an analyst at Standard & Poor's.
Sony Corp is another company for which some poor strategic decisions have combined with wider secular industry problems to put top executive Sir Howard Stringer under a harsh light for some time.
Stringer, a Sun Valley regular, is facing shrinking music and movie markets, as well as a consumer electronics market that is matured. He is also now facing pressure in Sony's once fast-growing PlayStation video games unit.
But speaking to reporters yesterday as he arrived at Sun Valley, Stringer dismissed calls for a PlayStation 3 price cut from game publisher Activision CEO Robert Kotick.
"He's putting pressure on me and I'm putting pressure on him. That's the nature of business," said Springer.
The problems for Sony are more complex even than those in the days of its Betamax video debacle in the eighties, said an analyst.
"The challenge they face now is that there are few growth products across Sony," said Kazuharu Miura, analyst at Daiwa Institute. "The problem they are up against now seems to be bigger and run deeper."
(Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo; editing by Tiffany Wu and Steve Orlofsky)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this