Walt Disney Co. has received several early-stage bids for its ABC Radio business, but the media group plans to fish for better offers and talk to private equity firms before it decides on whether to proceed with a sale, according to sources close to the process.
Radio station operators Emmis Communications Corp. and Entercom Communications Corp. have done diligence and made offers for ABC Radio; and Citadel Broadcasting Corp. is also interested, the sources said.
But Disney, which has been quietly shopping ABC Radio around for more than two months, is still angling for a more attractive offer.
Disney is looking for bids of as much as $3 billion or more, sources say, which, at as much as 16 or 17 times cash flow, would be a hefty premium compared with the levels at which most of ABC Radio's peers currently trade.
The traditional radio industry and the share prices of its major players, has been hit by sagging growth prospects and a surge in competition from satellite radio. ABC Radio, which broadcasts ESPN Radio and ABC News Radio, owns 72 stations. More than half of those are in the top 25 U.S. markets.
To structure a tax-efficient deal, Disney would likely spin or split off the radio business and then merge it into whatever suitor company it chose, sources said. Disney's shareholders would own half of the new company to satisfy regulatory conditions.
ABC Radio spokeswoman Julie Hoover had no comment on whether the company has received bids.
Disney has called ABC Radio a "non-core asset." But some sources questioned whether spinning it off into the depressed market would create much value, especially because it generates around $250 million of cash flow for Disney each year and could be highly dilutive for any of the strategic bidders.