Fox bails on Time Warner bid… for now

August 5, 2014, 8:35 PM UTC
Rupert Murdoch Delivers Keynote At The National Summit On Education Reform
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 14: News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch pauses as he delivers a keynote address at the National Summit on Education Reform on October 14, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Rupert Murdoch was the keynote speaker at the two-day National Summit on Education Reform. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

21st Century Fox (FOXA) this afternoon announced that it has withdrawn its $85 billion takeover offer for Time Warner (TWX), instead launching a $6 billion stock buyback. Seems that Rupert Murdoch wasn’t too pleased with how his company’s stock price has slumped since the deal was first announced, while Time Warner’s shares had climbed.

Three immediate thoughts:

1. This is not the end

People like Rupert Murdoch do not base massive strategic decisions on short-term stock fluctuations. There is nothing in Fox’s statement that precludes Murdoch from making a future bid, at whatever price. Don’t be surprised if this is just a negotiation ploy.

2. Time Warner must be spooked

Time Warner shares are cratering in the aftermarket, down nearly 12% as of this writing to just $75 per share. That’s nearly $9 billion in market cap. It’s still above the $71 or so that it was trading at prior to the Fox bid leaking, but this is a giant message to the Time Warner board that investors were bidding up based on the takeover offer, not the underlying story. Fox stock, for what it’s worth, is going in the opposite direction — up more than 8% on the news.

3. He can’t lose

If Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes really is playing poker with Rupert Murdoch, he is in a pretty sweet position. After all, who else can get snookered at the table and walk away with nearly $80 million?

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