Clear Channel buys back stox block

Company to acquire 5.7 mil shares at $31.63

Clear Channel Communications, the world’s largest radio broadcaster, agreed to buy 5.7 million of its shares from affiliates of buyout firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst as part of a $1 billion stock repurchase plan.

The transaction, priced at $31.63 per share — the stock’s closing price on Wednesday — will close today, the San Antonio-based company said. Dallas-based Hicks, Muse sold another 16.8 million shares to Citigroup, Hicks, Muse spokesman Roy Winnick said.

The purchase leaves about $309 million in Clear Channel’s $1 billion share-repurchase program announced on Feb. 1, J.P. Morgan Securities analyst Spencer Wang said in a note Friday. The company, whose shares have dropped about 25% in the past year, has authorized $3 billion in buybacks since March 2004.

Clear Channel shares fell 80¢ to $30.80 Friday.

Clear Channel said it didn’t expect the transaction to have any impact on a plan announced last month to spin off its live-entertainment unit and sell shares in the billboard business.

The company said on April 29 that it will spin off Clear Channel Entertainment, the biggest U.S. concert promoter, and sell 10% of its outdoor advertising business to boost the value of each unit.

At the time, Clear Channel CEO Mark Mays said management was attempting to “unlock the considerable value in our company” by dividing it up. Similar efforts to spin off divisions or split into smaller units are underway at media congloms Viacom, Time Warner and Liberty Media.

Clear Channel is also starting a new division, Clear Channel Entertainment Prods. That unit will focus on the development of content, intellectual properties and fixed-base entertainment.

Hicks, Muse’s Winnick declined to comment on terms of the sale to Citigroup. Citigroup spokeswoman Mary Athridge said the company had no comment on the transaction.

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