Media General to buy LIN Media for $1.6 billion-Reuters

(Reuters) – Media General Inc said it would buy LIN Media LLC for $1.6 billion to create a broadcaster reaching nearly a quarter of U.S. households with a television.

Dwindling advertising revenue and audience numbers have pushed broadcasters to acquire TV stations that have multiple revenue streams, including retransmission fees from cable operators that pay to carry channels.

Media General Chairman Stewart Bryan said the deal would create the second-largest pure-play U.S. TV broadcaster. Tribune Co became the largest after it bought Local TV Holdings for $2.73 billion last June.

Other large recent deals include Gannett Co Inc buying Belo Corp for $1.5 billion and Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc buying eight TV stations from the Allbritton family for $985 million.

LIN shareholders will get $27.82 per share in stock and cash, based on Media General’s trailing 20-day average price. At that price, the offer represents a premium of 29.5 percent to Lin’s Thursday closing.

Shares of Media General, in which Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc held a stake of about 5 percent as of December, jumped 12.5 percent to $19.51 in early trading.

LIN shares were trading at $27.98 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Media General exited the newspaper business in 2012, selling most of its newspapers to Berkshire Hathaway for $142 million.

LIN Media, which owns or operates 43 TV stations and seven digital channels in 23 markets across the country, was founded in 1961. Its initials stand for Louisville, Indianapolis and Nashville, the cities where it originally owned radio stations.

The company’s profit has missed analysts’ average forecast for the last three quarters.

Bryan will remain chairman of the combined company, while LIN Media Chief Executive Vincent Sadusky will be the CEO.

Bryan is the great grandson of the founder Joseph Bryan, who in 1903 formed the Richmond Times-Dispatch, one of the newspapers which would go on to become a part of Media General. The company became a TV broadcaster in 1955 when it launched WFLA-TV in Tampa, Florida.

Media General said it expects to sell some stations in certain markets to address regulatory concerns.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is set to vote on new rules to curb sidecar arrangements between TV stations, such as sharing advertising revenues.

Such agreements often give one broadcaster de facto control over another station’s programming and finances in violation of FCC rules.

RBC Capital Markets will provide $1.6 billion in financing to Media General.

The company combined with privately held New Young Broadcasting Holding Co Inc last June.

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