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Basch Report
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Sep. 13, 201805:20 AM EST

The Basch Report: Tegna projects record political ad spending

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Company that operates 47 TV stations, including two in Jacksonville, predicts up to $200M in revenue from political ads.
by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

This won’t come as any surprise in the current political climate, but Tegna Inc. is expecting record political advertising spending this year.

The company. which operates 47 television stations that include WTLV TV-12 and WJXX TV-25 in Jacksonville, said last week it expects revenue of $180 million to $200 million this year from political ads. That’s up from $160 million in the 2014 midterm election season.

“Tegna has a very strong footprint for this year’s mid-term elections, with both spending levels and the number of competitive races reaching new highs,” the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

“The company’s anticipated 2018 full-year political advertising revenue reflects the critical role strong local broadcast stations play in political marketing strategies,” it said.

Most of the revenue will come in the next couple of months, of course. Tegna reported political ad revenue of $33.3 million in the first six months of this year.

Tegna is getting more money for midterm spending than it did during the last presidential election campaign.  The company reported $154.8 million in political ad revenue in 2016.

Without major election campaigns, political revenue dropped to $23.3 million in 2017. Because of that, Tegna’s overall revenue fell 5 percent to $1.9 billion in 2017.

Total revenue grew 8 percent in the first six months this year to $1.03 billion.

The other public company that operates television stations in Jacksonville, Graham Holdings Co., does not report total revenue figures for political ad spending. Graham operates WJXT TV-4 and WCWJ TV-17.

BMO analyst downgrades CSX

BMO Capital Markets analyst Fadi Chamoun has a positive outlook for CSX Corp. and other railroad companies, but he downgraded his rating on Jacksonville-based CSX last week because he is “stepping off (mildly) the accelerator.”

“The fundamentals surrounding railroads’ demand, pricing, and productivity are robust, but valuation levels are above historical averages and leading demand indicators are at peak historical levels,” Chamoun said in a report on the industry.

“While we remain fans of the rail sector and continue to believe that railroads should represent a core holding for long-term investors, tactical profit taking may be warranted, in our opinion,” he said.

Chamoun downgraded CSX from “outperform” to “market perform,” but said the company is doing well in its goal of increasing efficiency.

“CSX’s transformation to a precision railroading model continues to be a source of significant improvement in earnings and free cash flow,” he said.

“While the benefits of precision railroading are long lasting and should position the company to be a cost and service leader in the Eastern U.S. over the long term, the company has also benefited from a strong demand cycle including growing export coal volume and robust domestic intermodal market.”

The downgrade reflects “a more balanced risk/reward at current levels,” he said.

Moody’s Investors Service also weighed in Monday on CSX, affirming the company’s credit rating and saying the outlook is stable.

Moody’s cited the company’s position as one of two major eastern U.S. railroads “with a diversified freight mix and operating margins that are likely to continue an upward trajectory.”

“The swift improvement in operating margin is largely driven by CSX’s transition to a new operating model that focuses intensely on efficiency, velocity, asset utilization and pricing, including for non-freight services,” it said.

Web.com sets meeting date

Web.com Group Inc. set Oct. 10 as the date for a special shareholders meeting to vote on a buyout by affiliates of Siris Capital Group for $28 a share.

With the meeting set, it seems that investors have given up on the idea that another party will swoop in with a bid above $28.

Web.com’s stock had been trading mostly above $28 since the updated agreement was announced Aug. 6, indicating that Wall Street was expecting a higher bid. However, the stock dropped back into the $27.90s last week.

Stewart shareholders OK Fidelity deal

Shareholders of Stewart Information Services Corp. last week approved its acquisition by Jacksonville-based Fidelity National Financial Inc., but the deal is still months from completion.

Fidelity announced the deal in March that would increase its share of the U.S. title insurance market from 32 percent to about 42 percent. However, regulatory agencies are expected to require divestitures of some operations that will reduce Fidelity’s market share.

Because of the long regulatory process, completion of the merger may not happen until early next year.

Stewart said more than 99 percent of votes cast at its special shareholders meeting approved the deal.

FIS sells check authorization business

Fidelity National Information Services Inc., or FIS, said last week it sold its Certegy Check Services business to an affiliate of Variant Equity Advisors LLC.

The Tampa-based business, which provides check authorization services, is now an independently operated company.

FIS said it sold the business as part of its strategy to focus on providing software-based solutions to financial institutions.

Terms of the deal were not announced but Robert W. Baird analyst David Koning said in a research note the sale price was likely between $75 million and $100 million.

Koning estimates the check business was producing annual revenue of $75 million to $90 million, or about 1 percent of total FIS revenue, and Certegy’s revenue was declining by about 20 percent a year.

Jim DeVries

ADT names DeVries new CEO

ADT Inc. last week said Chief Executive Officer Tim Whall is retiring Nov. 30 and will be succeeded by Jim DeVries, president of the security services company.

DeVries joined ADT as chief operating officer in May 2016 and was promoted to president in September 2017.

ADT went public in January for the second time in five years and its stock has performed poorly since the initial public offering.

The company had hoped to sell shares at $17 to $19 but had to reduce the price to $14 when the IPO hit the market. The stock dropped on its first day of trading and has remained below the IPO price since.

The stock fell again last month after reporting an unexpected second-quarter loss and has been trading below $9 recently.

Boca Raton-based ADT employs about 3,000 people in Jacksonville.

Michaels falls on disappointing earnings forecast

The Michaels Companies Inc. reported second-quarter earnings slightly higher than expectations, but sales for the arts and crafts retailer were disappointing and the company projected third-quarter earnings below analysts’ forecasts.

As a result, Michaels’ stock dropped to a 52-week low last week.

Earnings of 15 cents a share were 4 cents lower than last year but 1 cent above the company’s forecast.

Sales fell 1.8 percent to $1.05 billion, mainly due to the closing of the company’s Aaron Brothers chain with 94 stores. More significantly, comparable-store sales (sales at stores open for more than one year) fell 0.4 percent.

Michaels projected third-quarter earnings of 42 cents to 45 cents a share, lower than the average analyst’s forecast of 51 cents, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Michaels’ stock, which was trading above $20 before the earnings report just before Labor Day weekend, fell to a low of $15.85 last week.

In more positive news, Michaels announced last week it will hire more than 15,000 seasonal workers for the holidays across its stores and distribution centers, which include a distribution center in Jacksonville.

The company employed about 49,000 at the end of its last fiscal year, according to its annual report.

The company operates more than 1,200 stores in the U.S. and Canada under the Michaels and Pat Catan’s brands.
 

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