Viacom, CBS evaluate potential merger

Posted February 03, 2018

Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. are preparing to announce Thursday that they're in the process of setting up special board committees and hiring advisers to explore a potential merger, according to a person familiar with the matter. It would combine CBS's broadcast television network with Viacom's cable channels and film studio amid a big shakeup in the industry.

This effort has largely been pushed by Shari Redstone, vice chair and board member for both companies.

The Redstone family controls roughly 80% of the voting shares of both companies.

Yet those plans relied largely on winning over Leslie Moonves, the chairman and chief executive of CBS, whom Ms. Redstone wanted to lead the combined company.

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The companies said in separate statements Thursday that their boards have formed exploratory committees to mull a deal. Viacom did the same thing.

CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc., two of the biggest United States media companies, are again weighing a merger at the urging of their controlling shareholder Shari Redstone.

Shari Redstone, the media mogul's daughter and business heir, has been involved in talks with the two companies since 2016, which intensified in December after the Walt Disney Co.'s purchase of a majority of 21st Century Fox's assets, Reuters reports. CBS was up about 0.5% and VIacom was up 1.5%.

"As the world around CBS and Viacom will soon be inhabited by giant companies with endless balance sheets, the reality of the current arms race has recently weighed on these two stocks", Michael Nathanson, an analyst with MoffettNathanson Research said in a recent research note.