Sinclair plans stock offering

Fundraisers needed to raise over $400 mil after spending spree

NEW YORK — Having spent big on some recent station acquisitions, Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. said Tuesday it planned a public stock offering to raise at least $329 million for the company and $110 million more for two stockholders who want to lighten their holdings.

The stock offering is the latest in a heavy stream of capital-raisings by broadcasters on Wall Street, as radio and TV companies take advantage of the spectacular rally in their stocks over the past couple of years. Last week, radio group Chancellor Media Inc. sold $898 million of stock in an offering expected to fetch more than $1 billion by the time extra stock sales are concluded in coming weeks.

A big new convertible

And Clear Channel Communications execs are marketing a $550 million stock offering now, which the radio and TV group hopes to price March 25. Clear Channel also is selling $500 million of convertible debt.

Sinclair said Tuesday it planned to sell 6 million shares itself, while two shareholders — Boston Ventures and Bank of Boston — will sell 2.03 million shares in Sinclair they received in Sinclair’s acquisition of River City Broadcasting in 1996. (The two investors had stock in River City).

Sinclair stock, which has more than doubled over the past year, fell 6¢ Tuesday to close at $55.87. At that price the offering will raise at least $330 million, although the offering’s underwriters — led by Salomon Smith Barney and BT Alex Brown — have the ability to sell $50 million more of stock for the company if demand exists.

Billion-dollar deal

Sinclair will use the money raised from the offering to reduce its debt, which will hit $2.1 billion once it completes its recently announced $1 billion acquisition of Sullivan Broadcasting.

Sinclair is keen to do more station deals. Sullivan will take Sinclair’s TV station count to 56 but the broadcaster has told Wall Street analysts it wants to own 100 stations.

Sinclair CEO David Smith believes that once digital television is introduced in the next few years, a big station group would have a lot of leverage over programmers because it will have so much spectra, according to one Wall Streeter close to the company.

The other advantage of the deal is that it will significantly increase the amount of stock held by outsiders and therefore will be available to be traded, which means the stock price won’t be so volatile, analysts say.

At the moment, only about 20% of the company’s 52 million shares trades freely, Wall Streeters estimate. Sinclair management owns about 70% of the stock.

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