Today’s announcement from CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS) that it will convert its outdoor advertising business into a REIT and seek buyers for the foreign properties owned by the company could fire up interest among existing players in the sector and may even attract a new one or two.
U.S. outdoor advertising firm Lamar Advertising Co. (NASDAQ: LAMR) said last August that it too was considering becoming a REIT and the stock posted a new 52-week high. CBS posted a new high today, and Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc. (NYSE: CCO) posted a multi-month high. Clear Channel is a subsidiary of Clear Channel Media Holdings Inc. and is controlled by Bain Capital Partners LLC and Thomas H. Lee Partners LP.
The world’s largest outdoor advertising company, Paris-traded JCDecaux said last November that it was on the lookout for deals in the U.S. given the weak European economy. The French firm was clearly bargain hunting, though, and complained that valuations of CBS’s outdoor division and Lamar were too high.
Another large outdoor advertising firm, China-based Focus Media Holding Ltd. (NASDAQ: FMCN) is being taken private by a consortium including its chairman, private equity firm The Carlyle Group LP (NASDAQ: CG), and other Chinese investors for around $3.7 billion.
It would not be a surprise to see one or more of the outdoor companies go private, especially if they are set up as REITs. The outdoor advertisers spin off large amounts of free cash flow, always attractive to private equity and hedge fund buyers. And, much to JCDecaux’s chagrin today, the price of poker just went up.
CBS shares are trading up about 9.3% today at $41.45 after posting a new 52-week high of $42.55. The prior range was $27.81 to $39.77.
Lamar’s shares are up 2.4% at $42.46 after posting a new 52-week high of $43.59. The previous range was $23.37 to $41.56.
Clear Channel Outdoor is up 5.2% at $7.43 in a 52-week range of $4.48 to $14.88.