By Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun
8:16 PM EDT, March 20, 2014
Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. offered to restructure its nearly $1 billion planned acquisition of seven ABC affiliates and a Washington-based cable news network, changes it says will satisfy cross-ownership concerns recently raised by the Federal Communications Commission.
The Hunt Valley broadcaster also announced Thursday that its board of directors approved spending $150 million more to repurchase shares.
In a letter Thursday to the FCC, Sinclair proposed eliminating "shared service agreements," at TV stations in three of the markets where it plans to buy an ABC affiliate from Allbritton Communications.
Sinclair said it would sell stations in Harrisburg, Pa., Charleston, S.C., and Birmingham, Ala., and not provide any services to those stations or to any others in those markets. It also would eliminate the creation of any joint sales agreements, in which one station sells advertising time for another.
Sinclair said it proposed the changes to avoid delays in closing the deal by July 27. The FCC, in a March 12 notice, indicated it would more closely scrutinize certain shared service arrangements between stations markets in the same market. The FCC also is considering changing the rules for joint sales agreements to restrict the number of TV stations controlled by a single owner in a market.
On Thursday, Sinclair said its new share repurchase plan will kick in once the existing $100 million program, announced in February, is exhausted. Since the initiative launched, the company has spent about $47 million to repurchase 2.5 million shares.
Sinclair said it may repurchase shares in the open market or in private transactions.
Such share repurchase programs are seen as a good use of cash flow and a means to lift a company's stock price by reducing the number of shares outstanding.
Sinclair's stock rose more than 3.8 percent Thursday to $27.03 a share.
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