Hasbro buys Peppa Pig owner to expand media business

peppapig
Peppa pig fun fair playset (Walmart exclusive) displays at Ramscale in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg

Hasbro Inc. agreed to spend $4 billion for Entertainment One Ltd., the studio that makes the Peppa Pig and PJ Masks children’s shows, to expand its media business beyond just licensing content.

The world’s largest publicly traded toymaker will pay 5.60 pounds a share in cash, 26% more than Thursday’s closing price. Entertainment One rose as high as 5.79 pounds, indicating some investors anticipate a higher bid for the company, which also makes movies and music. The bonds had a record gain.

Hasbro’s biggest-ever deal would give it TV production and development capabilities, including animated and live action shows, at a time when growth in video-streaming is spurring competition for content producers. Entertainment One is a perennial takeout candidate, and the stock is supported by speculation that media giants such as Netflix Inc., Discovery Inc. or Liberty Media Corp. may be interested to gain its popular brands, analysts at broker OliveTree Financial said.

“We would not rule out a competing bid for Entertainment One,” wrote Drew McReynolds, an analyst at RBC Dominion Securities. Still, the chance is low, as a rival bidder might not be able to achieve the $130 million revenue synergies that Hasbro is targeting.

Hasbro has been a driving force in turning toy properties like Transformers into entertainment, but until now it has mostly had to license its characters to studios to make films, said John Tinker, an analyst for Gabelli & Co.

“This can take their business to another level,” he said.

And after years of looking for an entertainment company to buy, including dalliances with Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. and DreamWorks Animation, Hasbro has finally locked up a deal that equips them to make larger films, he added.

The decline in the British pound made the valuation of Entertainment One, which is listed in London, more attractive, and the deal comes just days after Hong Kong’s Li family agreed to pay $3.3 billion for U.K. pub operator Greene King Plc.

The acquisition also expands Hasbro’s reach by adding a major international brand to its portfolio. Peppa Pig is a global success, with big viewership in China, and new brand Ricky Zoom has the makings of a hit, too, Tinker said. About half of Entertainment One’s revenue comes from outside the U.S.

U.K. broadcaster ITV Plc bid 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) for Entertainment One in 2016, but the production company refused to enter talks. ITV isn’t currently interested in making a counter bid for Entertainment One, according to a person familiar with the matter. A representative for the U.K. firm declined to comment.

’“We see opportunities for emerging markets. It’s also heartening to see that eOne has gotten great traction in markets like China for Peppa,” Hasbro Chief Executive Officer Brian Goldner said in a call with analysts following the deal’s announcement. He added the tie-up gives the company “a real opportunity for a beachhead that can go in China for many years to come.”

Hasbro plans to plug these characters into a brand-building infrastructure that has turned dormant properties like My Little Pony into massive revenue generators.

Hasbro shares fell 4% to $109.80 at 4:44 p.m. in late trading in New York. The stock has gained 41% so far this year.

Hasbro executives said share buybacks will be halted and that cash will instead be allocated to paying down debt. The company will maintain its dividend program.

Chief Financial Officer Deborah Thomas said the company wants to keep its investment grade rating and will look to finance the deal via term loans, bonds and proceeds from an equity offering of $1 billion to $1.25 billion.

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