Radio station giant Clear Channel Communications agrees to be acquired for about $18.7B

Thursday, November 16th 2006, 8:39 am
By: News On 6

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ Clear Channel Communications Inc., the nation's biggest radio station owner, said Thursday it has agreed to be acquired for about $18.7 billion by an investment group.

The transaction would be one of the biggest deals in which a company has been taken private, and showcases that vast sums that buyout groups have recently been able to assemble to acquire public companies.

Clear Channel said the deal calls for a group led by the investment firms Thomas H. Lee Partners LP and Bain Capital Partners LLC to pay $37.60 in cash for each share of Clear Channel common stock. That is a 10.2 percent premium over its closing price on Wednesday.

Its shares climbed $1.89, or 5.5 percent, to $36.01 in premarket trading.

The buyers are also assuming about $8 billion in debt in the deal.

Clear Channel announced in late October that its board of directors was evaluating ``strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value.''

Analysts had said taking the company private could push shares toward a price of $37 to $40 each.

Clear Channel said the company's board of directors ``with the interested directors recused,'' unanimously approved the agreement and is recommending shareholder approval. Lowry Mays is the company's chairman of the board and his two sons, Mark and Randall, are CEO and chief financial officer, respectively.

People familiar with the matter had expected at least two bids to be submitted as the deadline for offers passed earlier this week. Another bid had been expected from Providence Equity Partners, the Blackstone Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

Clear Channel owns or operates 1,150 radio stations and is the largest operator of radio stations in the country.

It also owns a majority of Clear Channel Outdoor, the outdoor-advertising segment that sells billboard and bus-stop ads.

In a separate announcement Thursday, Clear Channel said it plans to sell 448 of its radio stations, all located outside the top 100 media markets in the U.S., and its 42-station television group.

The deal would rank behind KKR's 1988 buyout of RJR Nabisco Inc., which still is the biggest going-private deal ever at $25.1 billion. It would also trail two other deals announced earlier this year. Those included the $21.8 billion buyout of airport development company BAA PLC and the $21.2 billion buyout of hospital company HCA Inc.