Exclusive: Providence Equity shopping Newport Television

LOS ANGELES Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:31pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Providence Equity Partners is shopping Newport Television, the group of 56 television stations it acquired in 2008, to potential buyers, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

According to the sources, the private equity firm has retained Moelis & Co to "explore strategic alternatives," including a possible sale of the company. One of these sources described the process as in its "real early stages" and said it was premature to talk about bidders or valuation.

Representatives for Providence and Moelis & Company declined comment.

Providence acquired Newport Television from Clear Channel Communications for $1 billion in March 2008. Most of that was financed with debt, however, with Providence only committing $260 million of equity to the purchase price.

Newport Television owns 56 stations located in 24 mid- to small-sized markets across the country. Included among them are Albany, New York; Bakersfield, California; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Memphis, Tennessee. The group includes stations affiliated with every major network: 10 CW, eight Fox, seven NBC, and six each for ABC and CBS, among others.

A deal for Newport Television, if completed, would mark the latest in a new wave of merger activity among local TV station owners. Last fall, Sinclair Broadcast Group bought a total of 15 stations from Freedom Communications and Four Points Media for a combined $585 million. Around the same time, E.W. Scripps Co bought nine stations from McGraw-Hill Cos Inc for $212 million.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Peter Lauria; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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