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iHeartMedia Files for Potential IPO

As it nears the exit of a year-long bankruptcy reorganization, iHeartMedia filed paperwork laying the groundwork for an initial public offering — to raise money to pay off its debts.

The radio broadcasting giant and podcast leader may decide to pursue an IPO, or execute a direct listing (as Spotify did in its unconventional IPO last year).

In an S-1 filing with the SEC Wednesday, iHeartMedia said, “We intend to use the net proceeds from this offering to repay indebtedness.” The company set a placeholder amount of $100 million as the amount to be raised (used to calculate the registration fee), which is not indicative of the size of the offering.

“Audio is hot, and we are the No. 1 audio media company in the U.S. based on consumer reach,” iHeartMedia touted in the filing.

The company owns 848 radio stations in 160 markets and the iHeartRadio music and podcast streaming service, which has 128 million registered users. It also produces over 20,000 local live events per year and eight major national tentpole events, including the iHeartRadio Music Festival and iHeartRadio Music Awards, and claims to be the largest commercial podcast publisher.

Formerly known as Clear Channel, iHeartMedia filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2018 after amassing more than $20 billion in debt following a leveraged buyout a decade earlier.

This January, a U.S. court approved iHeartMedia’s bankruptcy plan, which will cut its debt from $16.1 billion to $5.75 billion. The plan calls for iHeartMedia and billboard operator Clear Channel Outdoor to be separated, creating two independent public companies. Also in January, the company said chairman and CEO Bob Pittman and Rich Bressler, president, COO and CFO, have extended their contracts by four years. The execs will remain in their respective roles following the completion of restructuring process.

Among the risk factors cited in its IPO prospectus, iHeartMedia said there could be “substantial market overhang from securities issued in the Reorganization and freely tradeable as of the date of this offering.” The company’s stock remains available to trade on an over-the-counter basis.

For full-year 2018, iHeartMedia generated $3.6 billion in revenue — essentially flat from the year prior — and a net loss of $38 million on a pro-forma basis (backing out Clear Channel Outdoor). Its $976 million of adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization), represents a 27% margin. That, iHeartMedia claimed, is the highest adjusted EBITDA margin of any major advertising-supported audio media company.

The company enlisted Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley as underwriters for its potential IPO.

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