Friday, May 23, 2008

The great shake-up

Canwest hit another one-year low today at $3.83.
Update: Ooops. Spoke too soon. At 12:30 it's at $3.75
With the Bell deal effectively dead -- the banks want out, the bondholders have won in court, and the stock market has voted with its wallet -- the only way to re-work the divestiture is to break up the company into its constituent parts. Content-driven, as opposed to service-driven, convergence is dead. Bell is a natural for telephone, wireless, satellite and Internet. It's a dud in the TV and newspaper business.
Canwest does alright in TV. It's the newspaper side that is dragging Canwest stock down. The Aspers simply do not know how to run them. I'm sure the Aspers are having a very grim day wondering how low it can go before the banks call.
And, with all the inflation in the system, the interest on Canwest's debt isn't going down.
There are several possible end games here. Canwest can be broken up, with Rogers buying the TV side or, in a similar move to Bell's, Telus could pick up the network. I'm not sure Telus' people would be that dumb. They'd be smarter to try for Rogers.
Canwest could quietly lobby the feds to allow US ownership of Canadian papers, something the Conservatives might go for if they win a majority. That would mean some huge slash and burn in newsrooms, probably finishing off the newspaper business as we know it.
There could be new players like St. Joseph and Transcontinental. St. Jospeh's knows the printing business well and might look at the papers in terms of print media horizontal integration: huge, centralized presses going 24 hours a day putting ink on paper.
Whatever happens, expect it sooner rather than later.

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