Paramount Global (PARA) closed Tuesday's trading session more than 6% higher after Loop Capital upgraded the stock late last week, suggesting financial pressures surrounding the company will force it to find a buyer.
Loop Capital upgraded shares to Hold from Sell but reiterated its price target of $14 a share with analyst Alan Gould telling investors, "We no longer believe the downside is that much greater than the upside."
"While we still believe a turnaround of PARA will be a challenge, investors’ perception of the company could change with a motivated seller, clever bankers, and Berkshire’s purse strings," he said.
"The bull case is that the financial pressure will force PARA to find a buyer and shareholders will achieve private market value. The bear case is that there are no buyers for the cable assets, the streaming business is a work-in-process, and Shari Redstone will not sell just the studio, the only asset that would have multiple highly interested buyers," Gould added.
Shari Redstone currently serves as the non-executive chairwoman of Paramount Global, in addition to president of her family's holding company, National Amusements (NAI), which controls the company through its class A shares.
Paramount closed Friday's trading session up 6% after BDT Capital Partners, an affiliate of BDT & MSD Partners, funded a $125 million preferred equity investment in National Amusements.
The investment will help NAI pay down its revolving loan and recent term loan borrowings, according to a press release. Paramount has recently battled layoffs, business restructurings, and a dividend cut that sent the stock plummeting nearly 30%.
"Our expanded partnership with BDT & MSD reflects our strong belief in Paramount’s ability to deliver value to all shareholders," Redstone said in the release.
"NAI has conviction in Paramount’s strategy and execution, and we remain committed to supporting Paramount as it takes the necessary steps to build on its success and capitalize on the strategic opportunities in our industry," she continued.
Paramount has long been viewed as a potential acquisition target due to its small size relative to competitors. The company boasts a current market cap of about $10 billion, compared to Disney's (DIS) $161 billion and Netflix's (NFLX) $176 billion.
Paramount CEO Bob Bakish hinted more media M&A was on the horizon while speaking at a UBS media conference late last year.
"Consolidation has been the rule in business for a long time, certainly been the rule in media," he said at the time. "So, it’s hard for me to bet on anything other than consolidation will happen in the future."
In February, shortly following the announcement that Paramount would be folding Showtime into Paramount+, The Wall Street Journal revealed the company had turned down a more than $3 billion offer from executive David Nevins to buy Showtime.
Nevins' proposal was one of many offers the company had received for Showtime over the past several years, the Journal said. The network, which is home to popular shows like "Billions" and "Yellowjackets," was said to be a key driver in unlocking value for the media giant.
In addition to the Showtime offer, the company has tip-toed around recent reports of a potential sale of the company's BET Media Group, which includes cable channels BET and VH1, after producer Tyler Perry and media mogul Byron Allen reportedly expressed interest in purchasing a majority stake.
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-B) boosted its stake in Paramount Global in the fourth quarter of 2022, purchasing an additional 2.4 million shares worth more than $40 million, according to a regulatory filing released on February 14, pushing its stake in the company north of 93 million shares.
Another Buffett connection lies in BDT & MSD Partners’ Chairman and Co-CEO Byron Trott — long known as a trusted advisor of Buffett.
"Paramount has an incredible legacy, underpinned by its industry-leading content and media assets. We believe strongly in the value creation opportunities ahead for the company and its shareholders," Trott said in Friday's release.
Still, not everyone is convinced a sale is on the horizon — at least not right away.
Wells Fargo analyst Steve Cahall suggested on Tuesday that Redstone's "conviction" in Paramount's strategy implies "a break up of the company is not likely anytime soon."