Updated: With the *Time Warner*Cable separation in the past and the AOL spin on the way, *Time Warner* Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes very, very carefully laid the groundwork for possible acquisitions today during the company’s Q209 earnings call. In the months following the $9.1 billion special dividend from TWC, Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) has bought back some $350 million in stock. But Bewkes told analysts that acquisitions that bring “strategic advantages” are “another potential use” for excess buying power.
One more condition from Bewkes: “Any acquisition needs to provide an attractive risk-adjusted return, compared to other uses for our capital — including buying back our own stock.” That helps narrow down the buy list. I’ll add another criterion: avoid anything that requires massive corporate integration to be deemed a success. Been there, wearing the t-shirt.
What could be coming? But I don’t think Bewkes is talking about anything massive — and not only about full acquisitions. TW has opened the purse strings for a couple of deals recently that offer some guidance: In March, TW picked up 31 percent of Central European Media Enterprises Ltd. for $241.5 million in a strategic move giving the company a programming presence in central Europe and a partner for Warner Bros. More recently, Warner Bros. picked up bankrupt Midway Games and the Mortal Kombat franchise for $49 million to tuck into its own gaming activities.