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ACTIVIST investor ValueAct Capital Management has built a new position in the New York Times Co (NYT), contending the iconic newspaper company could improve digital sales and margins through an aggressive rollout of its subscriber-only bundles.
San Francisco-based ValueAct said in a letter to investors Thursday that it now owns a 7% stake in the Times.
It said it believed the current valuation doesn’t reflect the company’s long-term growth prospects in almost any potential economic environment and that management has several opportunities to offset the macroeconomic headwinds that face the industry.
Key to this growth will be a more aggressive rollout of all its subscriber-only products, it said. Those products include the Athletic, as well as crosswords and games, cooking and news.
“Our research suggests that most current readers and subscribers are interested in the bundle and would pay a large premium for it but are not aware the offering even exists,” ValueAct said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg.
“This is an opportunity we believe management needs to drive with urgency, as it is the biggest lever to accelerate growth, deepen NYT’s competitive moat, and ensure the long-term strength and stability of the platform.”
The investment firm believes that, over the long run, there is potential for the Times to see strong double-digit digital revenue growth and see margins expand by up to three times, it said.
“We believe NYT may be one of the few consumer subscription businesses well positioned for the current environment,” ValueAct said.
“They are in the early innings of penetrating a large, addressable market, can sustainably increase their customer lifetime value, are already solidly profitable, and have a much more attractive competitive environment.”
A representative for ValueAct declined to comment.
“We are aware that ValueAct has made an investment in the company,” a spokesperson for the Times said in an e-mail, adding that the company speaks regularly with shareholders about strategy.
“Members of our management team have had conversations with ValueAct to hear their views and share ours.
“The board and management team will continue to make decisions that we believe are in the best interest of the company and all company shareholders.”
The Times has been one of the rare success stories in publishing as it has built a large and growing digital-subscription business.