Fisher paying special dividend


Fisher Communications announced that it will make a special payout to shareholders of $3.50 per share. Strangely, the stock price for Fisher Communications first fell on the news, but then ended the day up 1.7%. The company announced that Q2 revenues were up 10%, but that the loss from operations also grew. Same station TV revenues were up 5.3%, while radio declined 3%.

Fisher management has been under pressure from disgruntled investors to enhance shareholder value. CEO Colleen Brown said in her quarterly conference call that the board elected to go the special dividend route because “the approach treats all shareholders equally.” Funding for the $31 million payout will come from cash flow and borrowing. Meanwhile, the company will soon have after-tax proceeds of nearly $109 million from the sale of its stake in Safeco Insurance, but the board has yet to designate how that capital gain will be dealt with. Fisher is also considering a possible sale of its Fisher Plaza real estate in Seattle. Brown said there were several possible uses for those eventual proceeds: stock buybacks, another special dividend, debt pay-down or asset purchases. Stay tuned.

Q2 revenues increased 10% to $45.3 million. EBITDA declined 15% to $6.1 million.

Television revenues were up 15% to $31 million and TV broadcast cash flow jumped 23.1% to $9.1 million, despite Brown reporting that national advertising was very soft. On a same station basis, TV revenues were up 5.3%, which was still better than most of its peers.

Radio was a different story, although Brown said the stations outperformed the Seattle market. Radio revenues fell 3% to $11.2 million. The loss from operations was $1.5 million, compared to a loss of $350,000 a year earlier. The radio decrease was attributed to increased promotion expenses and rights fees for the Seattle Mariners. Fisher has not renewed its Mariners contract and this will be the last season that the games air on KOMO-AM.