CBS’s Credit is Maxed Out - TvTechnology

CBS’s Credit is Maxed Out

Eye Network parent may need to borrow to pay debt
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NEW YORK:Analysts say CBS will likely have to borrow money to service its debt, The Los Angeles Times reports. The network chief financial officer said last month that CBS could handle its debt though 2010 with cash and cash flow. Barclay’s Scott Shiffman is not convinced, saying the network could have a deficit of as much as $893 million for bonds maturing in 2010. One way to avoid the outcome is for the company to sell new debt to pay off the $1.4 billion maturing in mid-2010.

The other option is to sell assets. The market isn’t exactly prowling to scoop up TV operations, though CBS did manage to sell off three of its radio stations today.

S&P currently puts CBS’s debt rating BBB+, one level above junk. Borrowing more money could drop it further.

CBS (NYSE: CBS) reported 2008 consolidated revenues of nearly $14 billion, equal to a writedown taken in October for its broadcast licenses, pushing the company to post an operating loss of around $12 billion. CBS consequently slashed its quarterly dividend from 27 cents a share to 5 cents, payable on April 1, though Pali analyst Rich Greenfield said it was late in coming.

CBS owns and operates 29 TV stations, including 14 of its own affiliates, and 15 affiliated with The CW, MyNetwork or no network. It also comprises the network, the Paramount TV studio, print publisher Simon & Schuster, outdoor advertising and radio.

Wilks Broadcast Group, a platform acquisition company of The Wicks Group (parent of NewBay), acquired the three Denver-based FM stations from CBS in a deal valued at $19.5 million. The group bought seven CBS stations in Kansas City and Columbus, Ohio, for a reported $138 million in 2007.

CBS shares have fallen from a 2009 high if $8.92 in January to reach as low as $3.10 today. – Deborah D. McAdams