Sinclair Broadcast close to buying Tribune Media for nearly $4 bn

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc, the largest US broadcaster, is close to buying Tribune Media Co for nearly $4 billion, Reuters yesterday reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Sinclair may pay around $44 a share, valuing Tribune at about $3.8 billion, the report said.

Tribune shares closed at $40.29 on Friday, giving it a market cap of $3.5 billion.

The potential deal comes after the Financial Times last week reported that Rupert Murdoch-controlled Twenty-First Century Fox is in talks with private equity firm Blackstone Group to table a offer for Tribune Media Co. (See: Twenty-First Century Fox in talks with Blackstone to buy Tribune Media)

The deal would also come a month after the US Federal Communications Commission voted to reverse a 2016 decision on limiting the number of television stations some broadcasters can buy, but cannot cover more than 39 per cent of US household.

This change has led to US media companies trying to consolidate the country's TV station groups.

Tribune Media was created in 2014 when the Tribune company split its broadcasting and publishing businesses into two separate companies – one called Tribune Publishing and the other Tribune Media. (See: Tribune to split broadcasting and publishing into two companies)

New York-based Tribune's broadcasting business includes 42 local television stations in 33 markets, WGN Radio, superstation WGN America, Tribune Studios, Tribune Digital Ventures, Tribune Media Services, its equity interests in Classified Ventures, CareerBuilder, and The TV Food Network, and its valuable portfolio of real estate assets.

WGN America reaches approximately 80 million US households, while Tribune Broadcasting reaches over 50 million households in the US.

Tribune, which has a market cap of around $3.2 billion, attracts 60 million monthly unique visitors to Tribune Broadcasting's local websites and apps, according to internal data and Google analytics.

Sinclair operates 173 stations in 81 small and medium-sized markets including Baltimore, Maryland, Wichita, Kansas and Salt Lake City, Utah.