August 6, 2018 / 7:21 PM / 3 months ago

Analysts stick with CBS as Moonves allegations probed

(Reuters) - Wall Street is largely backing CBS Corp (CBS.N), with few analysts changing their ratings or price targets on the media company, even as it looks into allegations of sexual misconduct against Chief Executive Les Moonves.

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The CBS television network logo is seen outside their offices on 6th avenue in New York, U.S. on May 19, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo/File Photo

The current breakdown of analyst recommendations is 19 “strong buy” or “buy” ratings and 11 “hold” ratings with no “sell” or “strong sell” recommendations, according to Thomson Reuters data.

CBS shares were down 0.5 percent at $52.87 on Monday.

The company’s shares have lost about 8 percent of their value since July 26, the day before the New Yorker magazine published an article containing allegations of sexual harassment against Moonves by six women ranging from 1985 to 2006.

Moonves has said that he “may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances” decades ago, which he called mistakes that he regretted immensely, but that he understood “‘no’ means ‘no’” and had never used his position to harm anyone’s career.

Last week CBS hired two law firms to investigate the allegations against Moonves.

Among Wall Street analysts, the mean price target for CBS stock is $65.04, down only slightly from $65.88 on July 6.

Some analysts cited a “generally solid” second quarter after CBS results topped Wall Street estimates Aug. 2. But they also refer to the Moonves investigation as a big overhang on the stock.

MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson, who has a “neutral” rating on CBS and a price target of $58, said it is “uninvestable” and that “if these accusations are correct, it would be impossible for Moonves to continue” as CEO.

B. Riley’s Barton Crockett, who rates CBS as a “buy” and has a $61 price target on the stock, refers to the Moonves situation as a “sideshow drama.”

“Every media company that’s lost top execs/talent to #MeToo has continued apace, because of other talent/management stepping up,” he said. “CBS, we believe, would, too.”

The investigation of Moonves comes as CBS is locked in a legal battle with its largest shareholder, Shari Redstone’s National Amusements Inc. Moonves has opposed Redstone’s efforts to merge CBS with Viacom Inc (VIAB.O), also owned by National Amusements.

Benchmark Co’s Daniel Kurnos, who has a “buy” rating and a $90 price target headlined his research note: “Legal Distractions Aside, Plenty of Intrinsic Fundamental Value for CBS.”

Kurnos said that while he acknowledges CBS is “difficult to buy ahead of a resolution of the impending legal challenges” he also cited it as leading content provider with increasing proportion of recurring or subscription revenue.

Reporting By Sinéad Carew; Editing by Bill Rigby

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