Media General Inc., a newspaper publisher and television station operator, said Friday it plans to sell network television stations in Florida and Louisiana to help reduce debt and strengthen its balance sheet.
The publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Tampa Tribune and Winston-Salem Journal said it has signed agreements with Hoak Media Corp. to sell ABC station WMBB in Panama City, Fla., and NBC/CBS station KALB/NALB in Alexandria, La.
The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to be completed in the second or third quarter of 2008. Terms were not disclosed.
The stations are among five in the Southeast that Media General had previously announced plans to sell.
Marshall N. Morton, president and chief executive, said negotiations with other companies for the remaining stations are nearing completion and Media General expects to announce those deals in coming weeks. Those stations are: WCWJ in Jacksonville, Fla.; and WNEG in Toccoa, Ga., an independent, satellite station for WSPA in Spartanburg, S.C.
Last Week, the Richmond company announced plans to sell its ABC television station WTVQ in Lexington, Ky., to Morris Multimedia Inc.
Media General shares fell $1.11, or 7 percent, to $14.83 in afternoon trading Friday.
Media General is in a proxy fight with Harbinger Capital Partners, a hedge fund with an 18.4 percent stake of Class A stock, which plans to nominate members to the company’s board of directors to help increase profitability.
Besides its three metropolitan newspapers, Media General owns 22 daily newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama and South Carolina, more than 150 weekly newspapers and other publications and 23 network-affiliated television stations.
Including the pending acquisitions, Dallas-based Hoak Media owns, operates or programs 24 television stations.