Indianapolis… Emmis Communications Corporation (NASDAQ:EMMS) today announced that it has agreed to sell its controlling interest in Votionis, S.A., an Argentine broadcasting company, to its local minority partners, Daniel Hadad and Viviana Zocco, for approximately $7 million in cash. Votionis operates one AM and one FM station in Buenos Aires.
Emmis also announced that the Belgian Government has awarded Emmis licenses to operate nine FM radio stations serving more than 50% of the population in the Flanders region of Belgium. Emmis expects to use approximately $3 million of the proceeds from the sale of Votionis to fund the development of these stations.
“Today’s announcement is consistent with our strategy to become geographically targeted with our international interests,” Emmis International President Paul Fiddick said. Emmis International now consists of Sláger Rádió, the top-rated national radio station in Hungary, as well as its interests in Belgium. Belgium, with a population of more than 10 million, is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe and enjoys one of the highest GDP per capita in the world.
In 1999, Emmis purchased a 75% interest in Votionis. Since then, Emmis has enjoyed significant commercial and ratings success despite political and economic instability in Argentina. The AM station, Radio 10, is Argentina’s leading news and information station while the FM station, Mega 98.3, pioneered the “rock nacional” format and achieved instant ratings success when the format was introduced in 2000.
The Argentine peso was substantially devaluated relative to the U.S. dollar early in 2002. Because of this, Emmis will report a currency translation loss upon exiting its investment in Argentina of approximately $11 million. However, on an actual transaction basis, Emmis will have realized a slight gain on the sale.
Since the devaluation, Emmis has sought a suitable exit point from Argentina, and concentrated on improving its business during the economic recovery. National elections earlier this year have increased political stability to the country, and provided Emmis the opportunity to monetize its investment.
The Votionis sale is subject to Argentine regulatory approvals and is expected to close during the first half of 2004.
The Belgium licenses, five of which are renewals of licenses first acquired by Emmis in August 2003, serve the principal Belgian cities of Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges and Ghent, as well as Aalst, Harelbeke (Kortrijk), Hasselt, Leuven, and Ostend. The licenses are for an initial term of eight years and do not require the payment of any license fees.
Moving forward, Fiddick said, Emmis will continue to target desirable properties in a focused geography and with the prospect of both strategic and private equity partners.