Clear Ch. profits off sharply as buyout nears

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Radio giant Clear Channel Communications, awaiting shareholder approval of an $18.7 billion buyout offer, reported fourth-quarter financial results that surpassed analysts' expectations on Friday.

The company on Friday posted $211.3 million in net income, a 54% drop from a year ago, which was boosted by a $279 million gain from the sale of concert unit Live Nation.

On a per-share basis, Clear Channel earned 43 cents, two pennies better than analysts projected. Revenue rose 11% to $1.94 billion, better than the $1.89 billion analysts anticipated.

The company did not hold a conference call to discuss its earnings because of the pending acquisition. A private-equity group made up of Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital Partners has agreed to buy Clear Channel for $37.60 per share and the assumption of $8 billion in debt. Thomas H. Lee Partners is part of a consortium that owns the Nielsen Co., parent of The Hollywood Reporter.

While many analysts are predicting the sale will go through as planned, some note that at least one large shareholder reportedly disapproves. Citigroup analyst Eileen Furukawa told clients Friday that if the deal falls apart shares could fall to about $30 per share.

Clear Channel shares rose fractionally Friday to $36.47.

The analyst said that Clear Channel's better-than-expected financial results in the fourth quarter are likely thanks to strong growth in television fueled by political dollars.

Radio delivered 7% revenue growth in the fourth quarter, while outdoor advertising was up 13%.

For the year, Clear Channel grew revenue 7% to $7.07 billion.

Clear Channel also is in the process of selling 448 of its 1,176 radio stations and all of its television stations.
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