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LIN TV Post Loss on $1 Billion Charge

PROVIDENCE, R.I.: LIN TV today posted results for 2008 that included one of the heftiest write-downs yet by a TV group. LIN, which owns and/or operates 27 stations in 17 markets, wrote down more than $1 billion for the year and took an additional restructuring charge of nearly $13 million.

By comparison, Hearst-Argyle, which has 29 TV stations, wrote down $940 million. Barrington wrote down $50 million on its 23 TV stations. Journal Communications, with 12 TV stations, wrote down nearly $78 million. Nexstar, with 50 or so TV stations, wrote off nearly $56 million for the first nine months of 2008. Sinclair, with 58 TV stations is expected to write down around $460 million. The bulk of the impairment charges reflect the diminished value of broadcast licenses, while severance and restructuring typically represent a fraction.

The charges, related to goodwill, the declining value of broadcast licenses and obsolete broadcast equipment, drove a net loss for the year of $830.4 million, compared to income of $53.7 million for 2007. Revenues were up one percent for the year to $399.8 million compared to $395.9 million in 2007.

Political boosted the tally, bringing in $47 million--670 percent over ’07 and 40 percent more than the 2004 presidential election season. Retransmission consent revenues from per-subscriber fees charges to cable and satellite operates rose 114 percent for the year. Retrans and online ad revenues combined totaled $29 million last year compared to nearly $15 million in 2007.

The uptick in political, retrans and online was offset by an 11 percent decrease in local and national ad sales--$368.6 million last year compared to nearly $416 million in ’07.

A substantial chunk of the write-down came in 4Q, when LIN recorded an impairment charge of nearly $414 million on its TV licenses, $309.6 million for goodwill and $8.7 million on dead TV gear, for a total of more than $732 million.

The 4Q net loss totaled nearly $626 million, compared to income of nearly $28 million for 4Q07. Revenues were $104 million for the quarter, compared to $108.6 million for 4Q07.

LIN (NYSE; TVL) finished the year with $743.4 million in outstanding debt. Cash and cash equivalents totaled $20.1 million. Consolidated leverage was reduced from 6.5x at the end of ’07 to 5.7x as of Dec. 31, 2008.

Going forward, LIN projected 1Q09 revenues to be down between 20 to 25 percent compared to last year.

Shares of TVL traded at around 86 cents today.