A&E Television Network (AETN) premiered its fourth season of Duck Dynasty August 14. The one-hour episode garnered 11.8 million viewers, the highest number ever to watch a non-fiction cable show. A+E Networks, the holding company, is owned jointly by Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Hearst Corporation. The show's runaway success increases the value of A+E Networks immeasurably. 
Can an IPO be far off? I'll have a look at the reasons going public makes sense. 
IPO Market
There have been 129 IPOs in the U.S. through August 14; that's one more than in all of 2012 and only 26 away from being the best year since 2007. Not only have a large number of companies gone public this year but they're also performing well with the average IPO up 29% from its offering price. The average total return of the top five IPOs is 205%. Needless to say the IPO market is hot and getting hotter. 

SEE: IPO Basics: What Is An IPO?
Despite the robust IPO market, there haven't been any significant media-related offerings in 2013. Interestingly, the one big exception—Silver Eagle Acquisition Corp. (Nasdaq:EAGLU)—doesn't even have an operating business. It's a special purpose acquisition corporation (SPAC) established by media industry veterans Harry Sloan, Jeff Sagansky, James Graf and Dennis A. Miller. The group seeks to acquire one or more media and entertainment businesses using the $300 million in net proceeds plus any debt needed to complete a deal within 24 months. Blind pools are good for the sponsors (Sloan et al.) and terrible for everyone else. Avoid like the plague.
Potential Size of A&E IPO
Disney and Hearst acquired Comcast's (Nasdaq:CMCSA) 15.8% stake in A+E Networks in July 2012 for $3.03 billion. The deal valued it at $19 billion. Slightly more than a year later Duck Dynasty has blown the doors off cable television. Surely it's risen since then. Disney values the equity investments on its balance sheet at $2.7 billion, which is clearly much too low. 
So what is the real value of its 50% interest in A+E Networks?
In a recent article Bloomberg mentions an unnamed source within the company who says it generates $1.2 billion in annual profits from $3.6 billion in revenue. I'm assuming Bloomberg means "operating" profits in this context and not "net" profits. The bottom line based on a 35% tax rate would be $780 million, a net margin of 21.7%. 
Not too shabby.
A+E Networks Peers

Company P/S Forward P/E
Discovery Communications (Nasdaq:DISCA) 5.9 19.9
AMC Networks (Nasdaq:AMCX) 3.2 17.1
Scripps Network Interactive (NYSE:SNI) 4.4 17.9
Average 4.5 18.3

Bloomberg's estimate of earnings and revenues combined with an average of its three peers puts A+E Networks' market value between $14.3 billion and $16.2 billion. Currently, Discovery's enterprise value is $35.8 billion, almost double A+E Networks and 7.3 times revenue. Although Discovery does a better job internationally, A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc is moving fast to expand overseas. In July it announced it had acquired the remaining shares of AETN it didn't already own from AOL (NYSE:AOL), giving it complete control over its network in Asia. Not only is the executive bullish on Asia, she's also a big believer in Europe and the Americas. In a couple of years that gap will be closed. 
If you apply the same enterprise-value-to-revenue multiple for A+E Networks as is the case for Discovery, we come to a value of $26.3 billion, which seems fair given its shortcomings internationally. Discovery's debt as a percentage of enterprise value is 18%. Using the same percentage for A+E Networks (as a private company equity investment it's not broken out in Disney's financial reports) for simplicity sake, I arrive at a market cap of $22 billion. It's not scientific by any means but it's close enough.  

SEE: Using Enterprise Value to Compare Companies
Bottom Line
Zoetis (NYSE:ZTS) is the largest IPO so far in 2013 raising $2.2 billion. Assuming a $22 billion enterprise value for A+E Networks, it could easily raise a couple billion dollars issuing shares to the public. If everything went smoothly, Disney and Hearst could then consider what to do with the remaining shares. Obviously, the needs of a public company are different then those of a private one. What each board would want to do at that point is entirely hypothetical. 
Whether or not you believe that Disney's 50% investment in A+E Networks is accurately reflected in the price of its stock, I believe it makes total sense to go public at this point in the IPO cycle because there appears to be two to three years of strong activity ahead. The fly in the ointment is the economy. There are signs it's slowing. If we're still moribund by Christmas, the IPO market will flatline in 2014 and there will be no reason for Disney or Hearst to consider going public. 
But if it did I'd seriously have to consider buying some. 
Disclosure - At the time of writing, the author did not own shares of any company mentioned in this article.

Related Articles
  1. Stock Analysis

    3 Stocks that Are Top Bets for Retirement

    These three stocks are resilient, fundamentally sound and also pay generous dividends.
  2. Investing News

    Are Stocks Cheap Now? Nope. And Here's Why

    Are stocks cheap right now? Be wary of those who are telling you what you want to hear. Here's why.
  3. Investing News

    4 Value Stocks Worth Your Immediate Attention

    Here are four stocks that offer good value and will likely outperform the majority of stocks throughout the broader market over the next several years.
  4. Investing News

    These 3 High-Quality Stocks Are Dividend Royalty

    Here are three resilient, dividend-paying companies that may mitigate some worry in an uncertain investing environment.
  5. Stock Analysis

    An Auto Stock Alternative to Ford and GM

    If you're not sure where Ford and General Motors are going, you might want to look at this auto investment option instead.
  6. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The 4 Best Buy-and-Hold ETFs

    Explore detailed analyses of the top buy-and-hold exchange traded funds, and learn about their characteristics, statistics and suitability.
  7. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    What Exactly Are Arbitrage Mutual Funds?

    Learn about arbitrage funds and how this type of investment generates profits by taking advantage of price differentials between the cash and futures markets.
  8. Investing News

    Ferrari’s IPO: Ready to Roll or Poor Timing?

    Will Ferrari's shares move fast off the line only to sputter later?
  9. Stock Analysis

    5 Cheap Dividend Stocks for a Bear Market

    Here are five stocks that pay safe dividends and should be at least somewhat resilient to a bear market.
  10. Investing

    How to Win More by Losing Less in Today’s Markets

    The further you fall, the harder it is to climb back up. It’s a universal truth that is painfully apparent in the investing world.
  1. How do dividends affect retained earnings?

    When a company issues a cash dividend to its shareholders, the retained earnings listed on the balance sheet are reduced ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital?

    The difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital is investors have already paid in full for paid-up ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Why would a corporation issue convertible bonds?

    A convertible bond represents a hybrid security that has bond and equity features; this type of bond allows the conversion ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How does additional paid in capital affect retained earnings?

    Both additional paid-in capital and retained earnings are entries under the shareholders' equity section of a company's balance ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What types of capital are not considered share capital?

    The money a business uses to fund operations or growth is called capital, and there are a number of capital sources available. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between issued share capital and subscribed share capital?

    The difference between subscribed share capital and issued share capital is the former relates to the amount of stock for ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!