Viacom Reveals Multibillion-Dollar Takeover Warchest

10 December 2003

US media giant Viacom revealed it has billions of dollars in free cash as it considers major acquisitions.

Chief financial officer Richard Bressler declared this week that the group has up to $3 billion (€2.5bn; £1.7bn) in annual free cash flow and is mulling the purchase of western European broadcasters, US cable networks and German outdoor ad firms.

There has been no shortage of speculation about Viacom's takeover targets. The group is regularly touted as a potential suitor for UK television giant ITV; it has also considered a bid for German outdoor firm Deutsche Staedte-Medien; and analysts suspect it has designs on US cable business E W Scripps.

However, president/chief operating officer Mel Karmazin, speaking at a conference in New York, warned that any acquisition must have a growth rate as good as or better than Viacom's. It must also be able to add to the group's "core competencies" and should not be too expensive.

The final criterion has so far discouraged Viacom from making a move for the merged ITV (soon to be formed by the combination of Granada and Carlton Communications). The US group reportedly believes that British media stock valuations remain too high.

Meanwhile, as it finalises its shopping list, Viacom is using its free cash to buy back shares.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff