The company’s U.S. stock closed +9.3% today — at $22.91, the highest it’s been since late 2011 — in unusually heavy trading after Japan’s Nikkei news service reported that Sony‘s board will explore the proposal from billionaire Daniel Loeb‘s Third Point. Sony was noncommittal last week when the hedge fund disclosed that it had paid $1.1B for a 6.4% stake in the electronics giant, and wanted it to create a separate stock for the movie, television, and music production and distribution operations. Loeb proposed that Sony sell as much as 20% of the entertainment unit, and use the cash to shore up the core electronics businesses. Sony shares have appreciated about 16% since then. (Third Point partnered with Deadline’s parent Penske Media Corp in its acquisition last year of Variety.)
The billionaire founder of hedge fund Third Point startled many in entertainment today with the news that he has paid $1.1B for a 6.4% stake in Sony – and wants the company to create a stock for its movie, TV, and music businesses, selling as much as 20% to the public. But on Wall Street, where Daniel Loeb is an A-list celeb, the big surprises are that he showed any interest in showbiz — and that his language in the letter he sent to Sony was so polite. As a value investor managing more than $13B, Loeb, 51, likes to engage in deep research and then bet on relatively boring companies and assets that others overlook. Third Point’s most recent quarterly investor letter highlights its holdings in International Paper and mortgages, as well as John Malone’s European cable company Liberty Global. Although Loeb was raised in Los Angeles, the son of a lawyer and an historian, he’s known as a New Yorker. He earned an economics degree from Columbia University before he hit Wall Street. After working 12 years for firms including Citibank, Jefferies and Warburg Pincus, he founded Third Point in 1995 with about $3M from family and friends.
2ND UPDATE, 2:15 PM: Sony doesn’t slam the door on Third Point‘s proposal for it to sell up to a 20% stake in its entertainment assets — but doesn’t encourage the idea either. Sony “welcomes investment in the company,” SVP Corporate Communications Shiro Kambe says. But he adds: “We are focused on creating shareholder value by executing on our plan to revitalize and grow the electronics business, while further strengthening the stable business foundations of the entertainment and financial service businesses. As President and CEO Kazuo Hirai has said repeatedly, the entertainment businesses are important contributors to Sony’s growth and are not for sale, and we look forward to continuing a constructive dialogue with our shareholders as we pursue our strategy.”
UPDATE, 10:28 AM: The CBS speculation has taken on new life following this morning’s news that hedge fund Third Point wants the electronics company to create a public stock for its entertainment assets. Third Point proposed that Sony keep at least an 80% stake in the studio and music properties. Still, the plan “will concentrate investor attention” on the businesses and “the synergies that potential acquirers such as CBS might eventually realize,” says Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser — who likes the idea. Sony shares are +10.5% in mid-day trading and CBS is +2.6%. Late last year Sony firmly rejected a sale after CBS’ Les Moonves mused that he “would want to look at them” if the properties were for sale. Sony execs might start to think differently if they take the movie, TV, and music assets public. The stock would give them a clearer sense of how much the properties are worth and, therefore, how much they could collect from a buyer. And Wiser believes that CBS could show that it would do a better job than Sony — which he says “has never bridged a significant cultural gap nor overcome its hierarchical bureaucracy to work better with the U.S.-centered operations.” CBS will be flush with cash soon as it prepares to sell and restructure its billboard ad properties.
The fiscal year ended March 31 marks Sony‘s first full fiscal year in the black since 2008. The company reported earnings today in Tokyo saying it had a net profit of $458M compared to a $4.6B loss the …
Crackle announced eight new original programs today during its NewFronts upfront presentation in New York as well as the return of the Jerry Seinfeld series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, one of three series on the free digital network to get a second season. The Sony-owned Crackle’s first foray into feature-length movies will kick off with the martial arts pic Extraction starring Danny Glover coming in September and a sequel to Joe Dirt starring David Spade. Here are the full descriptions of the original programming:
EXCLUSIVE: Flight actress Kelly Reilly will play the mother of a boy who emerges from an operation claiming to have been to heaven in the Sony pic. Joe Roth and T.D. Jakes are producing the …
David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.
The long-anticipated successor to the PlayStation 3 videogame console will come with vastly improved online video streaming capability for Netflix and other entertainment companies. PlayStation 3 is already Netflix’s biggest delivery platform, Sony executive Andrew House noted, but the PS4 has been designed and built to handle those tasks better. The console will also have built-in social-media sharing, video creation and cloud computing, all built on a powerful backbone that should keep costs down and improve user and content developer experience, or so Sony says. The company also announced new partnerships with Facebook and video-streaming company Ustream, and promised new or expanded partnerships with entertainment companies to deliver movies, TV shows and other, more-traditional content.
Sony‘s third-quarter results for the period ending December 31 show a net loss of 10.8B yen ($124M). That marks the eighth straight quarterly loss for the Japanese giant but is a marked reduction from the $1.7B loss in …
Almost 10 years after rejoining Columbia TriStar as Executive VP of creative advertising in the motion picture division, William Loper is out at Sony Pictures Entertainment following what a company source calls a “restructuring” of the creative department. …
Sony Computer Entertainment Europe was fined today by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office for “serious breach of the Data Protection Act.” The £250,000 ($395,000) penalty stems from the April 2011 incident that saw the Sony PlayStation Network Platform hacked and the personal information of millions of customers compromised. The ICO said its investigation determined that the attack “could have been prevented if the software had been up-to-date” and said “technical developments also meant passwords were not secure.” The April 2011 fiasco shut down the PlayStation Network for more than a month as the company scrambled to respond. Sony Computer Entertainment Europe said of today’s ICO ruling that it “strongly disagreed” and planned to appeal.
David Smith, Deputy commissioner and director of data protection at the ICO said today, “If you are responsible for so many payment card details and log-in details then keeping that personal data secure has to be your priority. In this case that just didn’t happen, and when the database was targeted – albeit in a determined criminal attack – the security measures in place were simply not good enough.
Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser’s generating a lot of buzz on Wall Street today with a report that makes the case for a deal. CBS chief Les Moonves has said he’s interested in Sony Pictures, although the Tokyo based company says it’s not selling. Wieser finds it “difficult to imagine” that the struggling electronics giant would reject a serious offer for the studio, which doesn’t clearly fit with its other operations. He figures the studio could go for at least $10B based on Lionsgate’s market value (about $2.6B) — although he acknowledges that “relatively little is known” about the nuts and bolts of Sony’s studio business. And CBS, which recently announced plans to raise cash from its billboard business, could afford to make such a deal. Moonves would see quick benefits by wielding the ax at Sony’s production company, which Wieser says appears to be “materially more bureaucratic than others in the industry.” A deal also would make sense strategically, he adds, by giving CBS “a significant foothold in international television programming.” Sony has 124 channels in more than 159 countries including SET (general entertainment), AXN (edgy entertainment and movies), and Animax (which focuses on anime). In the U.S. Sony owns a piece of GSN and FearNet. Building off of those assets and Sony’s movies, Showtime could “more closely match HBO’s global footprint.” CBS would find it easier to sell its programs overseas. And CBS could use Sony’s library to cut more lucrative licensing deals with streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. Wieser also says that Sony Entertainment honchos Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal “would be significant assets.”