The TV-station owner spun-off two years ago by Gannett Co. (GCI) - Get Report is trading at record lows despite making a series of moves to improve its balance sheet and lift its stock price. In June, Tegna CEO Dave Lougee sold Career Builder in a transaction that netted the McLean, Virginia-based company $220 million. Last year, Tegna spun-off Cars.com, the auto-sales website.
David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital Inc. recently acquired a 1.1% stake in the media company, according to a government filing, heightening speculation that activists may be scrutinizing Tegna for a takeover.
And if Trump Administration regulators approve Sinclair Broadcasting Group Inc.'s (SBGI) - Get Report $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media Co., one of the four media conglomerates that owns a broadcast network as well as local-TV stations could also be in the mix. Same goes for other large TV-station groups such as privately-held ION Media Networks Inc., which has considered combining its local TV station business into a joint venture with 21st Century Fox FOXA.
Tegna has lost half of its value over the past six months as the company's operating revenue has fallen short of analyst projections amid slower-than-expected sales in a non-political year. The company has also struggled to find the right core of investors in the wake of Gannett's decision to separate its TV-stations from its legacy print businesses. The Cars.com spin-off and Career Builder sale may have confused media investors despite management's use of those proceeds to pay down debt.
While Tegna is expected to post underwhelming results for the rest of the year, 2018 is forecast to be a turnaround year. That's because Tegna's TV-stations are heavily weighted to NBC, a unit of Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) - Get Report . And in 2018, NBC will carry both the Super Bowl and the Summer Olympics from Russia. That bodes well for re-transmission payments, the fees pay-TV operators pay TV-station owners to carry local broadcasts.
But as the media industry continues to consolidate amid consumer and advertiser migration to digital platforms, Tegna's holdings of 46 stations in 38 markets may be more valuable as part of a larger conglomerate. Activist investors may want to speed up that process.