Investing

Apple should buy Netflix but it would likely cost at least $189 billion, JP Morgan says

Key Points
  • Apple has nearly $250 billion in cash.
  • J.P. Morgan thinks strategic acquisitions for the tech giant could be Netflix, Activision Blizzard or Sonos.
  • Netflix has a current market value of $148 billion and $7 billion in net debt.
Tim Cook, CEO, Apple 
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Apple has a pile of nearly $250 billion in cash and one of the ways J.P. Morgan thinks the tech giant could use it is by acquiring Netflix, to boost Apple's position as a video content creator.

"We think Netflix is best strategic fit on leading position in engagement level as well as original content, differentiating itself from pure aggregators of content," J.P. Morgan analyst Samik Chatterjee said Monday. "We believe there is value to acquiring the most successful player in this space, which is hard to replicate with a smaller player in this market."

Chatterjee notes that the purchase would likely command a sizable premium. If that premium was 20 percent, it would likely cost Apple $189 billion, the analyst speculates. Netflix has a current market value of $148 billion and $7 billion in net debt.

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The note from Chatterjee outlines three industries the firm thinks would be a good fit for Apple to make strategic acquisitions and names three companies Apple should buy: Netflix, Activision Blizzard and Sonos. This is speculation from Chatterjee but comes as Apple's long run of growth from the iPhone begins to dwindle. Chatterjee even notes specifically that the combination of Apple-Netflix is unlikely.

Apple and Netflix did immediately respond to requests for comment on J.P. Morgan's speculation.

"We believe Apple can drive synergies between its leading position in smartphones and the rapid transition of video consumption to mobile to drive stronger services growth," Chatterjee said. "We find Netflix as the best strategic fit, although we appreciate a combination is less likely as Netflix is unlikely to be a seller for a modest premium."

While Chatterjee said it would be difficult and pricey for Apple to acquire Netflix, he provided three reasons why the streaming service would be the best fit for Apple. First, Netflix fits with Apple's preference of being an "aggregator of content," he said, rather than a traditional media company like Sony Pictures. Second, the Netflix subscription model fits with Apple's services revenue model. And third, while difficult, Netflix would be easier to acquire than Hulu and Amazon Prime.

J.P. Morgan thinks Apple needs to buy instead of starting a streaming service on its own.

"Video streaming, including original video content, is a highly competitive market with established traditional media houses as well new entrants fighting aggressively for incremental subscribers, which is likely to make it difficult to scale any new platform to compete effectively," Chatterjee said.

Additionally, J.P. Morgan thinks a combination with Netflix could streamline Apple's advertising revenue.

"An acquisition of Netflix could help Apple drive consumers faster to their gateway app, which is serving as an aggregator of content and multiple subscriptions, and could enhance the opportunity around potential advertising revenues in the future," Chatterjee added.

Shares of Apple and Netflix rose 2.8 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively, in Monday trading.

Disclosure: Comcast, which owns CNBC parent NBCUniversal, is a co-owner of Hulu.

– CNBC's Michael Bloom contributed to this report.