Viacom Upgraded To Sector Perform At RBC On Expectations For Management Change

By Markets MarketWatch Pulse

Viacom Inc. shares were upgraded to sector perform from underperform at RBC Friday, after the latest moves to shake up its board. "Management change now seems inevitable, which removes an overhang, while earnings risk and strategic unknowns constrain the probability of a bull-case turnaround," analysts wrote in a note. The move comes after media magnate Sumner Redstone said late Thursday he was replacing five members of the Viacom board of directors, including Chief Executive Phlippe Dauman, who until recently was a long-time trusted lieutenant. That relationship has broken down as Redstone has been embroiled in a lawsuit questioning his mental competence and as his once-estranged daughter Shari Redstone has come back into favor. Shares rallied 7% in after-hours trade and were up 1% in premarket trade Friday. RBC analysts raised their price target to $45 from $34. "While one overhang may be removed, future leaders of Viacom have their fair set of challenges," they wrote. "Ratings remain depressed, affiliate fee growth guidance could be at risk, and cash is needed to delever." Shares are now up 9% in the year to date, but are still down 32% in the last 12 months.

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