Apple + Beats: Wall Street says why bother?
Apple knows music and Beats knows putting music in peoples’ ears—but beyond that, Wall Street can’t see much point in putting the two together.
The Financial Times and others reported Thursday that Apple was close to paying $3.2 billion to acquire Beats, the headphone company founded by rap icon Dr. Dre.
Read More Apple in talks to buy Beats for $3.2B
While Apple controls more than 60 percent of the digital music market and Beats controls a reported 70 percent of the premium headphone market, analysts think Apple’s money would be better spent elsewhere.
Cowen & Co., in another research note, said any Beats deal would be a “major deviation” from Apple’s past M&A patterns.
While a deal “doesn’t seem all that interesting to Apple on the surface,” Cowen’s Timothy Arcuri said Beats’ $1 billion in sales helped justify the deal.
Read More Finally, M&A returning to pre-crisis levels
Beats’ streaming service could also complement iTunes, particularly the nascent iTunes Radio service, he added.
Apple and Beats have recently started working together, Rosenblatt Securities analyst Brian Blair pointed out on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Friday. “You can actually access Beats audio through the app store and Apple gets paid a small amount.”
Most of Beats’ music subscribers come through AT&T, he said: “They have about 200,000 subscribers because AT&T gives it away for free.”
While dubious that an Apple buyout of Beats would actually happen, Blair said: “This would allow an Apple service to move on other platforms,” such as Android. “iTunes is going to continue to decline if they don’t … give iTunes music away across all the platforms not just iPhone [through iTunes Radio].”
If Apple really wanted to own the streaming music space, he argued, it would buy Spotify, which is expected to go public later this year.
Apple shares were down about 0.5 percent in premarket trading after news of the potential deal. (Click here for the latest quote.)
—By CNBC’s Ben Berkowitz. Matthew J. Belvedere contributed to this report.