Lamar in advanced talks to buy Clear Channel Outdoor assets: sources

(Reuters) - Lamar Advertising Co LAMR.O is in advanced talks to buy billboard assets in five U.S. cities from Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc CCO.N worth roughly $450 million, according to people familiar with the matter.

Lamar is close to a deal to purchase Clear Channel Outdoor’s billboard assets in Cleveland, Des Moines, Memphis, Reno and Seattle, the sources said this week, cautioning that negotiations have not been finalized.

The sources asked not to be identified because the sale process is confidential. Clear Channel Outdoor did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Lamar declined to comment.

Clear Channel Outdoor also plans to sell $350 million to $400 million of billboard assets in other markets to other buyers such as privately held billboard companies Total Outdoor and Reagan Outdoor, according to one source. The assets would be sold one by one and not to one buyer, the source added.

Clear Channel Outdoor would sell the assets to pay off some of the $20.6 billion in debt held by its parent company, iHeartMedia, which was taken private in 2008 by buyout firms Bain Capital LLC and Thomas H. Lee Partners for $19 billion,

Clear Channel Outdoor generates revenue from renting out space on its digital and static billboards at highways, on buildings and other outdoor spaces.

Billboards are holding their own with local audiences and advertisers even as attention slips away from regional advertising, such local newspapers facing circulation declines or television commercials that viewers increasingly are able to skip.

About 90 percent of Clear Channel Outdoor is owned by iHeartMedia. The rest is publicly traded, with a market capitalization of about $2.03 billion.

Based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Lamar has a market capitalization of $5.82 billion and is one of the largest outdoor advertising companies in North America, with more than 318,000 displays across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, according to its website.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe