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.
Tegna previously was reportedly approached by Apollo Global Management.
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."
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