With a strong balance sheet and increasingly less exposure to print-related businesses, Journal Communications had been an occasional station buyer even when the transaction market was in the doldrums. Now that more inventory is coming on the market, Journal execs have been quite open about their interest in expanding Journal Broadcast Group.
Journal CEO Steve Smith has said repeatedly that he is especially interested in filling out markets where the company has TV and not radio, or the other way around – and, of course, additional stations to fill out those clusters where possible. But after Journal reported its Q4 results on Thursday (2/23) he also told analysts he wouldn’t rule out going into a new market if the right opportunity came along.
Smith was joined in answering the acquisition question by the company’s new President, Andre Fernandez, who had already been CFO since 2008. They told the Wall Street crowd that recent deals came in with higher pricing than they had expected. No names were mentioned, but that would appear to refer to the McGraw-Hill TV sale to Scripps and the Four Points and Freedom sales to Sinclair. The Journal execs say the pricing makes their own company’s stock look even more attractive for buybacks. But even so, they are going to be interested in acquisitions which would build Journal – at the right price.
RBR-TVBR observation: We note Smith’s comment that there’s not much reason for anyone to sell a TV station in 2012, with the expected profits from political advertising. That seems to make it more likely that the company will buy some radio stations. But you never know what deal might present itself.