Will the company once known as AOL Time Warner soon become known just as Warner Communications? Probably not. But that’s one of the questions some people are playfully asking following Fortune’s disclosure that its parent company is talking with Meredith about a deal to unload most of its magazines with the prominent exceptions of Time, Sports Illustrated, and Fortune. UBS Investment Research’s John Janedis likes the idea: He figures that the operation — without the three famous titles — could go for as much as $2.9B. If Time Warner wants to delight investors, it could use that to repurchase as many as 50M shares. In any case, a sale of the declining business would improve Time Warner’s earnings prospects “potentially allowing for further re-rating of the multiple” of profits that many use to determine what a stock is worth, Janedis says. But a deal, if it happens, probably won’t be so simple. Meredith only has a market value of $1.7B, which likely makes it too small to borrow the cash needed to buy the Time Inc magazines outright. That’s why some company watchers believe Time Warner and Meredith probably would their pool their women’s magazines into a new company and figure out a formula to distribute shares in it to their stockholders.
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