Breakingviews - Who buys Bloomberg, the company, if the man wins?

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg addresses a news conference after launching his presidential bid in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S., November 25, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - In college, Michael Bloomberg joked he would be America’s first Jewish president. On Sunday, the former New York City mayor presented himself as the antidote to Donald Trump. For that pitch to work, though, Bloomberg the man will need to do something with Bloomberg the company. Keeping his eponymous firm would present a potential conflict of interest.

Bloomberg can place his business in a trust, as he did when he was mayor. The current Oval Office occupant put the Trump Organization in a trust and stepped away from overseeing operations. Yet Bloomberg is challenging Trump for “reckless and unethical actions” representing an “existential threat.” Convincing voters that he’s a different kind of billionaire requires taking the higher road. Selling Bloomberg entirely would remove doubts the founder’s personal interests compromise his commander-in-chief role.

The company’s revenue will hit $10.5 billion this year, with a 37% profit margin, Burton-Taylor International Consulting reckons. Add back taxes and capital expenditures, and Bloomberg’s EBITDA may be around $5.3 billion. At 12 times those earnings, Bloomberg LP could be worth more than $60 billion.

That limits the universe of potential buyers. Private equity firms could try to emulate Blackstone’s $20 billion purchase of Bloomberg rival Refinitiv from Thomson Reuters, the parent of Breakingviews. They’d need to band together in a so-called “club deal” to raise enough money, which they might be willing to do if it meant owning Wall Street’s elite provider of financial data.

Microsoft could consider adding financial information to the services it offers enterprises around the globe. With a $1 trillion market capitalization, it could absorb Bloomberg easily. Ditto Google, whose parent Alphabet has more than $100 billion of cash on its balance sheet. Bloomberg might also fit with IBM’s goal of gathering more data, which led it to acquire the Weather Co in 2016.

Lastly, Refinitiv’s pending sale to the London Stock Exchange Group could inspire rivals like $53-billion Intercontinental Exchange or CME, worth $74 billion, to run the numbers on a Bloomberg bid. Both, though, might struggle to raise enough cash to give hizzoner a perfectly clean exit.

In any event, the media mogul needs to clear a few even larger hurdles, namely winning the Democratic nomination, before fulfilling his college dream. But preparing for victory in the polls next year will require some astute succession planning today.


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