Wall St. Analyst: Take Viacom Private

Take Viacom off the NYSE? That's the call from Pali Capital analyst Richard Greenfield. In a report issued Tuesday, Greenfield noted that Viacom's core business--its cable network fleet--remains strong. But "due to a fear of disappointing investors," the company has been overly cautious in its operations. That makes Greenfield wonder why Viacom isn't a private company.

Such a move would free management "to run Viacom how they want, without worrying about public shareholders," he claims. A Viacom representative had no comment.

It would, however, fly in the face of the January split of the old Viacom into two companies: CBS and Viacom. That strategy was intended to unleash untapped value in the new Viacom, where the MTV Networks group is the growth engine.

Viacom's stock Tuesday closed at $33.25, just above its 52-week low. Greenfield has its target at $51.

Known as a provocative analyst, Greenfield says the market is "significantly undervaluing" Viacom's "key underlying asset--content." He notes that despite a weakness in the cable ad market overall, punctuated by a limping upfront, Viacom's younger-skewing networks, such as MTV and Nickelodeon, remain "must-buys."



Ever resourceful, Greenfield--who works for the Pali Research division of the Wall Street firm--has a plan. He suggests that Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone finance the privatization of the company by taking on debt. The media titan owns 12 percent of Viacom's shares.

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