Private Equity Sets Sights On Nexstar

Gushing private-equity dollars may be too much to resist for the 49-station Nexstar Broadcasting group. The station operator, which had a difficult first quarter, said Thursday it has retained Goldman Sachs to explore a possible sale.

The company's stations are in 29 mid- to small markets, and reach about 8% of the country. Its larger outlets include the NBC affiliates in the Scranton, Pa., and Little Rock, Ark. News of the impending sale sent Nexstar's stock soaring, up as much as 24% in mid-day trading to the $13.50 range.

The group posted a net loss of $9 million--greater than in the same period a year ago--in the most recent quarter, with revenues rising 4% to $62 million.

Still, private-equity firms seem to be chomping at the bit to get into--or move further into--the station operations business, even though some analysts view the sector as old media whose best days are behind it.

The 56-station Clear Channel group was recently sold for $1.2 billion to Providence Equity Partners, while the New York Times Co. shed its nine stations for $575 million last year. Sam Zell, a real-estate entrepreneur, is also taking the Tribune Co.--with a slew of major market stations--private.

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