The Real King of All Media

06/07/2012 10:30 am EST


Charles Carlson

Editor, DRIP Investor

If you're looking for an income stock with a nice growth kicker, which has plenty of legs but isn't in the high risk-high reward category, then this media stock may be just what you've been looking for, writes Charles Carlson of DRIP Investor.

I favor media stocks right now, and one of the better plays in the group is Viacom (VIAB). The company has a number of strong brands, including MTV, Comedy Central, and Paramount Pictures.

This amalgam of entertainment properties has fueled solid earnings growth. Enhancing appeal is the stock’s dividend, which grew 66% over the last year. I own these shares and expect them to outperform the overall market over the next 24 months.

Corporate Profile
Viacom is a leading global entertainment content company, with operations in television, motion pictures, and a wide range of digital media.

The Media Networks segment (approximately 66% of revenues) includes BET, MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Comedy Central, CMT, Spike, and TV Land. The firm’s digital assets include Neopets, Addicting Games, and Quizilla. Movie operations include Paramount Pictures, MTV Films, Nickelodeon Movies, and Paramount Home Entertainment.

The March quarter was solid for the firm, with operating income up 23%. Per-share profits of 98 cents were 10 cents better than the consensus estimate. For the quarter, the firm repurchased 14.7 million shares for an aggregate purchase price of $700 million. The buybacks are part of a $10 billion stock-repurchase program. As of May 2, Viacom had $5.9 billion remaining for purchase under the plan.

For fiscal 2012 overall, Wall Street is expecting profits of $4.31 per share, a 14% increase over the year-earlier profits. The stock currently trades at 11 times the fiscal 2012 estimate, a reasonable multiple given the firm is growing its bottom line by double digits.

One criticism of the company is its corporate structure. There are two classes of Viacom stock. Viacom Class A shareshave all voting rights. Sumner Redstone controls nearly 80% of the A shares.

Class A shares typically trade at a premium to the B shares as a result of the voting rights. Also, Sumner Redstone turned 89 in May, and there is the notion that in the not-too-distant future there will be change in control of the company, and an expectation that holders of A shares will receive a premium to the B shares should a change in control occur.

The downside of the A shares is that, because they are so closely held, the trading market is not nearly as liquid as that for the B shares. Because of the much more active trading market, I would consider the B shares for purchase, although a direct-purchase plan is available for both A and B shares.

Viacom has a number of appeals for investors—a decent yield of more than 2%, excellent Quadrix scores (Quadrix Overall score of 80 and Value score of 72 out of a possible 100), and solid earnings-growth prospects.

Please note that anyone can buy the first share and every share of Viacom stock directly from the company. Minimum initial investment in the firm’s direct-purchase plan is $250.

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