Young Broadcasting Stock Plummets--Again

Among the cratering of media stocks Monday, came another blow to money-losing Young Broadcasting, the station group fighting a sort of two-front war. The company is grappling with investors' concerns that the local station business at large will continue to suffer from an ad market slowdown, while battling the more specific issue of whether it can unload its San Francisco station.

Young's stock, which had been trading at about 8 cents a share, saw its price trading down nearly 50% Monday in midday trading, to the 4 cents range. That's down from a 52-week high of $2.68. Other pure-play station owners also saw their prices trading down--some as high as 15%.

Young, with 10 stations, is trying to get its price back over $1 to avoid a potential delisting from the NASDAQ. It is expected to remain listed until at least Nov. 28, but may have trouble maintaining that position going forward.

The company has been notified by the NASDAQ twice since June that it is not in compliance with listing qualifications, first due to a lower than $15 million market value and then a share price below $1. It has since moved to a NASDAQ market that gives it more time to demonstrate compliance.

Investors have balked at the performance of the Bay Area MyNetworkTV affiliate KRON, located in the country's sixth-largest DMA. They say it is a drag on earnings. Young has tried to sell it, but the credit markets have been in flux, even before the recently intensified turmoil.

Beyond KRON, Young is suffering, along with most of its peers, due to the hurting national spot market, where the auto category has pulled in the spending reins. That has been further crystallized over the last two weeks, most recently when NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker said the economy has had "a profound effect" on the company's 10 stations. Young reported a net loss of $168 million for the first six months of 2008.

On Monday, pure-play station groups were down in midday trading-- including Hearst-Argyle, in the 4% range, up to Nexstar, at about 15%.

Among Young's portfolio are five ABC stations--including one in Nashville, the 30th-largest DMA, and three with CBS, including a station that reaches throughout the Dakotas.

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