$600 million deal adds stations in Raleigh, Columbus, Birmingham, Providence; will spinoff Birmingham CBS affiliate in six months.
Media General Inc. announced today that it has completed its previously announced $600 million purchase of four NBC stations.
The stations and their Designated Market Area rankings are: WNCN Raleigh, N.C., No. 29; WCMH Columbus, Ohio (32); WVTM Birmingham, Ala., (40); and WJAR Providence, R.I., (51). All four stations are ranked among the top three in their respective markets.
“This acquisition is compelling from both an operational and financial perspective,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â said Marshall N. Morton, president and chief executive officer of Media General. “Investors can be highly confident of our ability to execute as planned. We’ve successfully integrated numerous acquisitions. We achieved or exceeded our projected operating synergies, and we repaid debt as quickly as, or faster than, projected.
“We are especially pleased to add Raleigh-Durham to our Southeast footprint. In Birmingham, WVTM has a broader signal than WIAT, the CBS station we currently own there, so we will reach more households. The Columbus and Providence stations are located in political battleground states, so they benefit greatly from campaign spending, especially in presidential election years,” Morton added.
The acquisition increases Media General’s number of NBC stations from five-to-nine and makes the company NBC’s third largest independent affiliate, further enhancing its relationship with the network. The company said the addition of these four stations “will improve the profit contribution mix of Media General’s publishing and broadcast segments, from approximately 60 percent publishing and 40 percent broadcast, to approximately 50/50.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
“We have conservatively estimated operating synergies of $3 million annually by 2008,” Morton said. The synergies, the company said, will come from enhanced revenues, which are expected to result from the implementation of Media General’s sales training and systems as well as its inventory management and pricing processes. Cost reductions, it said, “will result from bringing the new stations into Media General’s central traffic operation and from centralizing master control for all of its NBC stations.”
The new NBC stations add approximately 450 employees.
“Substantial free cash flow generated by our four new stations will enable us to quickly reduce the debt we incur to finance the acquisition,” Morton said. He added that at the end of 2006, the company expects its leverage multiple to be 4.0 times and that it will be reduced to 2.5 times by the end of 2008.
The acquisition will be funded from three sources, Media General said: drawing on the company’s existing $1 billion credit facility, issuing new public or bank term debt that includes $100 million for the acquisition and the refinancing of $200 million of existing notes due September 2006, and at least $100 million in net proceeds from the divestiture of assets previously identified as non-core.
Media General is in the process of selling its CBS affiliate in Wichita, Kan., including that station’s three satellites, and its CBS stations in Birmingham, Ala., Mason City, Iowa, and Chattanooga, Tenn. “There is substantial interest in the stations to be sold, and we expect to complete the sale of all the stations by the end of the year,” Morton said. As part of the acquisition of the NBC stations, Media General was granted a six-month duopoly waiver in Birmingham by the FCC, and the company has entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice to divest its CBS affiliate within six months.