Meredith to explore sale of its U.S. broadcast stations: sources

(Reuters) - Meredith Corp, best known for its lifestyle magazines such as “Better Homes and Gardens”, is preparing to explore a sale of its portfolio of local U.S. broadcast stations as it looks to streamline its business, people familiar with the matter said.

Meredith is discussing its plans with financial advisers and has already received interest in its stations from private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC, the sources said.

A deal could potentially value Meredith’s 17 stations at more than $2 billion, the sources said. Meredith reported earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $223 million for its local media group for the 2018 fiscal year.

The sources, who asked not to be named because the matter is confidential, cautioned that no deal is certain.

Apollo and Meredith, which had a market capitalization of $2.62 billion on Wednesday, both declined to comment.

The divestment would come after Meredith acquired media company Time Inc last year for $2.8 billion, in a deal that built out its suite of national print and digital media brands.

Since the acquisition, Meredith has moved to simplify its business and focus on its most profitable media properties. It has already sold off its Time and Fortune magazines, and has also been trying to sell Sports Illustrated.

A sale of its broadcasting business would leave Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith with just its digital and print media business, which targets primarily women and focuses on topics including food, lifestyle and parenting.

Meredith’s stations, which are mostly affiliates of Fox Corp or CBS Corp, reach 11 percent of U.S. households in cities such as Portland, Oregon and Las Vegas.

It a deal is completed, it would be the latest in a flurry of consolidation that has hit local broadcasting in recent years.

Broadcast television operators are looking to either gain scale or exit the space as viewership, and advertising dollars, increasingly shift to providers of web-based, streaming content.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is expected to relax restrictions on how many stations broadcasters can operate, a move that could further boost dealmaking.

Apollo in February agreed to acquire a majority stake in 14 television stations from privately held Cox Media Group, which set it up to become a player in broadcasting. Reuters reported that the transaction was valued at around $3 billion.

Apollo has been on the prowl for more assets to build up its portfolio. Earlier this week, it lost out on a deal when Nexstar Media Group Inc agreed to sell 19 television stations to Tegna Inc and E.W. Scripps Co for $1.3 billion to satisfy regulatory demands related to its Tribune Media Co acquisition. Reuters had previously reported Apollo had bid on those stations.

Nexstar announced its purchase of peer Tribune for about $4.1 billion in cash in December.

Reporting Carl O’Donnell in New York; additional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker