Gray Reportedly Making $8.5B Bid for Tegna

In a consolidating station market, Gray Television has made a bid for Tegna worth $8.5 billion, according to a published report.

Gray, which is smaller than Tegna, is offering about $20 a share in cash and stock, according to Reuters, which notes Gray already has $3.8 billion in debt on its books.

Last month, Tegna made a deal with Gray, selling to Gray a stake in its Premion over-the-top advertising unit.

Tegna is already under pressure from activist investor Standard General, which has criticized Tegna’s performance and mergers and acquisition strategy. Standard General has a 9% stake in Tegna and is looking to elect five new directors to Tegna’s board.

Related Tegna Blasts Standard General in Letter to Shareholders

Tegna previously was reportedly approached by Apollo Global Management.

Related: Tegna Reports Lower Earnings for 4th Quarter

Following reports of the bid, Tegna share were up more than 20% to $16.16 per share in Friday morning trading.

Tegna said its  policy is not to comment on market rumors.

"The immediate question will be other bidders come including Apollo, who has purchased stations including Northwest and Cox," said Steven Cahall, analyst at Wells Fargo, in a note Friday. "We think filings around the Cox deal suggested there were other financial bidders for those stations."

Cahall notes that, according to Reuters, Tegna is exploring all options, and recall activist investors had pushed to explore a sale or merger.

"Broadcast consolidation makes sense because it's free cash flow accretive and more importantly provides greater scale for gross/net retrans negotiations and ad sales," Cahall said. "The big question is whether financial sponsors see the cash yields as attractive enough to get more involved, which could be good for the sector's multiples."

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.