Ever since Vodafone (LSE: VOD) sold its 45% stake in US carrier Verizon Wireless, bid speculation has never been far from the company. The telecoms giant has a collection of strong assets and a merger could help it to unlock shareholder value.
The bundling of pay-TV, broadband, fixed-line, and mobile services in one package has seen great success across Europe, and the trend in growing quad-play offerings should drive further M&A activity. John Malone’s Liberty Global and Vodafone could be a ‘great fit’ given their highly complementary assets in the UK and Germany. So far, they have only agreed to pool their businesses in the Netherlands, but a full-blown merger remains an option.
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So, while a takeover of the company doesn’t seem imminent, bid speculation should continue to keep valuations aloft. Shares in Vodafone are valued at 36.4 times expected 2016 earnings and currently yield 4.9%.
In April, Premier Foods (LSE: PFD) rejected a 65p per share takeover offer from US foods group McCormick & Company. Shares in the maker of Loyd Grossman sauces and Mr Kipling cakes have since fallen by 30%, but it could be only a matter of time before another bid comes along.
The company owns some famous household brands, but because of its high debt load, many lack investment and now seem outdated. Its collection of brands could do so much better as part of a larger foods group. A merger could bring in more experienced marketing skills and additional financial fire-power, which could allow the new owners to unlock more brand value.
Valuations are supportive of another takeover offer too. Shares in Premier Foods trade at just 4.9 times its expected 2016/17 earnings, with analysts forecasting a 41% rise in adjusted earnings per share (EPS) this year.
The semiconductor industry is consolidating, as larger rivals seek to strengthen their technical capabilities and streamline supply chains. Apple supplier Imagination Technologies (LSE: IMG) could be a takeover target, following the acquisition of a 3% stake in the London-listed chip designer by Chinese state-backed conglomerate Tsinghua Unigroup.
Tsinghua Unigroup has prompted speculation around Imagination because the Chinese group has historically been very active in the M&A space. In less than three years, it has bought Spreadtrum, RDA and HP’s server business – and attempted many more takeovers.
Apple, with a near-10% stake in Imagination, could put in a bid too. The US company held takeover talks in March, but decided not to make an offer. However, if Imagination risked losing its independence, Apple could come back, especially given the importance of Imagination’s graphics IP in its iPhone and iPad devices.
Imagination is no stranger to takeover speculation and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was just another rumour.
Discount to its peers
Beverages company Britvic (LSE: BVIC) is another attractive takeover target for its larger rivals.
The company has a strong portfolio of non-alcoholic brands, and has potential to increase market share. But the soft drinks industry is dominated by giants, and smaller players could benefit from the extensive distribution networks and economies of scale of larger rivals.
Nevertheless, Britvic remains an attractive prospect as a standalone. There are significant longer-term growth drivers – improving operating performance, product innovation and international expansion. The company also trades at a discount to its peers – its forward P/E is 14.6, and shares trade at a prospective 2016 dividend yield of 3.4%.