Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

CBS Radio Files for IPO as Parent Plans to Jettison Business

  • Pre-IPO debt raise, and some of stock proceeds will go to CBS
  • Parent will use remaining shares as currency for stock buyback

CBS Radio Inc., a division of CBS Corp., filed for an initial public offering as one of the nation’s oldest broadcasters prepares to leave the shrinking AM/FM radio business.

The company filed for an initial offering of $100 million, a placeholder amount that’s used to calculate fees and will probably change. CBS Radio plans to take on debt before the stock sale to give to its parent , the Friday filing shows, as well as distribute some of the IPO proceeds to CBS. The rest will fund general corporate purposes and cash needs. CBS Radio didn’t name any underwriters in the filing.

A buyer could emerge before a stock offering is completed. CBS said in March it was considering putting a for-sale sign on the business and was weighing multiple options. Andre Fernandez, president of CBS Radio, told employees in a memo Friday the company is still considering possible courses.

“An initial public offering of CBS Radio stock has been and continues to be our primary focus as a step towards separating CBS Radio from CBS Corp.,” Fernandez wrote. “That said, we are continuing to consider other paths to find what we believe will be the best option for unlocking the value of our radio assets for CBS shareholders.”

Stock Buyback

Once the IPO is done, CBS plans to use its remaining stock in the radio division as currency to buy back its own shares, according to the filing. In 2014, CBS offered stock in its outdoor advertising division for its own common shares. The IPO of the outdoor division and its conversion into a real estate investment trust was expected to provide CBS with $5 billion for repurchases and acquisitions, according to estimates at the time.

CBS Corp. owns radio stations dating back to the inception of Columbia Broadcasting System in 1927. While the most-watched TV network has been exploring strategic options for the division, including a sale, analysts anticipated the company would spin off the business as it did with outdoor advertising.

By spinning off outdoor and now radio, CBS is reducing its dependence on advertising sales. CBS has said it will increase sales by extracting retransmission fees from pay-TV operators and selling video services over the Internet.

Terrestrial radio is a shrinking business, with advertising revenue falling and the company writing down the value of its station licenses last year.

CBS Radio posted a net loss of $136.5 million on revenue of $1.2 billion last year, after writing down the value of licenses. Both metrics declined from 2014, when revenue was $1.3 billion and the company saw net income of $176.5 million. Overall radio advertising sales declined 1 percent to $17.4 billion last year even as digital radio sales grew 5 percent, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau.

CBS Radio, which may be worth about $2.9 billion according to Bloomberg Intelligence estimates, operates 117 radio stations in 26 U.S. markets, including WFAN in New York. IHeart is the largest radio company with 861 outlets.

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