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Sinclair Likes Non-Broadcast Assets as Revenue, Earnings Rise

Thanks to rising retrans consent revenues and $3.6 million in political ad spending, Sinclair Broadcast Group saw a 2.8 percent rise (to $163.7 million) in revenues for the second quarter, compared with Q2 2007.

“While our revenues came in below our May 6, 2008 guidance of 3.6 percent to 4.9 percent growth, this was due to the current economic conditions and their impact on advertising spending levels,” said David Smith, president and CEO. “In particular, we experienced a decline in automotive ad spending beginning about halfway through May, largely due to the record-high oil prices and a decline in SUV and truck sales.”

The company anticipates continued economic weakness for the rest of 2008 and into 2009, and is reviewing its operating expenses and capital expenditures for potential savings or deferrals.

Smith also said the tough economy could help Sinclair make more strategic investments. In the quarter, Sinclair invested $35.1 million in various ventures, including $19.0 million toward developmental land in Frederick County, Md., in the Washington D.C., area. In 2007 and the first half of 2008, the company has put $122.3 million into non-television assets.

“We believe that the depressed real estate market and tight credit markets allow us to invest in what we believe to be under-valued non-television assets to drive future cash flows,” Smith said.

Earning were 15 cents per share in the quarter (and 34 cents per share in the first half of 2008) up from 3 cents per share in the second quarter of 2007 (and zero earnings total in the first half of 2007).

In the quarter, excluding political revenue, local advertising revenues were up 2.0 percent and national advertising revenues were down 5.6 percent.

On June 24, Sinclair agreed to buy WTVR-TV (CBS 6) in the Richmond-Petersburg, Va., market from Raycom Media for $85.0 million and simultaneously sell the license assets of WRLH-TV (Fox 35) to Carma Broadcasting LLC, subject to approvals. Closing could take up to a year.

Overall for 2008, Sinclair expects retransmission consent agreements to yield approximately $68 million, a jump from $59 million in 2007. It expects third quarter 2008 station net broadcast revenues from continuing operations to be approximately $152.5 million to $154.5 million, an increase of 2.0 to 3.4 percent over Q3 2007 revenues of $149.4 million. This assumes $9.7 million in political revenues versus $1.1 million received in the third quarter last year.

Sinclair owns and operates, programs or provides sales services to 58 television stations in 35 markets.