NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Is giving Mickey Mouse a black eye and bloody nose the only way for Walt Disney to fend off Comcast?
It might be. Carol Levenson, an analyst with fixed income research firm Gimme Credit, wrote in a research report Thursday that Disney could make a "defensive cash acquisition of its own" in order to remain independent. The rationale is that buying another company, especially if Disney had to take on more debt to do so, makes the company more expensive, and therefore, less attractive.
|More on Comcast and Disney
Sure, these so-called "scorched earth" policies, in which a target company purchases something in order to ugly itself up and scare off its acquirer, haven't been in vogue since the 1980s. But then again, who thought that hostile takeover bids would make a comeback?
Such a deal could price out Comcast, which has a history of being frugal. The cable giant walked away from a deal to buy MediaOne in 1999 after AT&T outbid Comcast. Of course, Comcast then wound up purchasing all of Ma Bell's cable assets in 2002 for a considerably lower price than what it offered for just MediaOne.
So Disney could probably keep Comcast at bay. But if it was crazy enough to make its own acquisition, Disney would likely incur the wrath of shareholders that are happy to see the company in play.
"It would be a pure embarrassment for Disney's board to do something like that," said Ted Parrish, co-manager of the Henssler Equity fund, which owns shares of Disney. "I doubt they would do that. They'd better not."
Another problem with this strategy would be finding something to acquire, said Dennis McAlpine, an analyst with independent media research firm McAlpine Associates. "As far as making an acquisition, I'm not sure what's left that's big enough and ugly enough to force Comcast away," McAlpine said.
Movie studio MGM is an oft-rumored takeover target, but McAlpine said he doubted Disney would be interested. Analysts have also mentioned satellite television firm EchoStar as a possibility for Disney or other media companies in recent years.
Shares of Disney, despite a strong 2003, have lagged the broader markets since 1998. But if nothing else, chairman Michael Eisner has proven to be very resilient. So it might not be a complete shock if he dug in for a big fight to keep Disney independent. And oh yeah, save his job.
It's hard to imagine Disney finding a "white knight" to buy the company since Eisner would still probably wind up having to look for new work if another media titan bought the firm. Plus, there would be even more regulatory hoops to go through if a company like say, Viacom or News Corp, wanted to make a bid.
"Disney's board has historically been insular and resistant to change," said Gregory Taxin, CEO of Glass, Lewis & Co, an independent research firm focusing on corporate governance issues.
So far, all Disney has said about the Comcast deal is that it will "carefully evaluate the unsolicited proposal." But Disney investors have to be hoping that Eisner isn't watching too much "I Love the 80s!" on VH1. Or dusting off his copy of Barbarians at the Gates for that matter.
Sign up to receive the Tech Investor column by e-mail.
Plus, see more tech commentary and get the latest tech news.