Emmis Communications reported financial results today for its first fiscal quarter ending May 31, 2019. Net radio revenues totaled $26.4 million, which is flat compared to the prior year. On a pro forma basis, accounting for the sale of its St. Louis cluster in April 2018, Emmis' first quarter radio revenues were up 3%, which matched the 3% growth in the radio markets where it operates.
Emmis closed on the sale of the four St. Louis stations April 30, 2018, and the reported results include two months of St. Louis revenues in the year-ago comparison. The pro forma results remove those billings from the equation.
Of course, Emmis announced much bigger sell-offs during its fiscal first quarter. On June 10, Emmis said it would sell its 50.1% controlling interest in the company’s six Austin radio stations to Sinclair Telecable, which currently owns 49.9% of the cluster. Sinclair Telecable will pay $39.3 million for Emmis’ stake, giving it 100% ownership of the stations and two FM translators, and marking Emmis’ exit from the market. Three weeks later, on July 1, Emmis said it signed a deal to sell a majority stake in urban AC WBLS-FM and rhythmic CHR “Hot 97” WQHT-FM New York to Standard General. The New York investment firm will partner with Emmis to form a new public company, Mediaco Holding. Emmis will receive $91.5 million in cash, a $5 million note and 23.72% of the common equity of the new company and will continue to manage operations of the New York stations.
Once the Austin and New York transactions close, Emmis expects to have about $88 million of cash available for reinvestment and other corporate purposes, after settling all tax obligations, closing costs, and assuming $13 million remains outstanding under the mortgage on its corporate headquarters in Indianapolis.
"In the past 14 years, we've paid off more than $1.3 billion of debt while making the conscious decision to take our entrepreneurial skills and transition Emmis into new areas of growth,” CEO Jeff Smulyan said in a press release ahead of its July 11 quarterly results call with investors. “We believe that this fiscal year will reveal a new Emmis, and I couldn't be more excited.”
Looking ahead, Smulyan says second fiscal quarter revenues are pacing up double digits, mainly due to a record-breaking Hot 97 Summer Jam concert in New York. Ticket revenue was the strongest in the 26-year history of the annual hip-hop festival. “We are also seeing a nice strengthening in advertising sales overall, which points to an outstanding quarter ahead," Smulyan added.
Look for color and commentary from Emmis’ results call in Friday morning’s Inside Radio.