APN News and Media Limited (ASX: APN) is no longer the boring, structurally-challenged newspaper company it used to be.
After demerging its New Zealand media business (NZME) and selling its Australian regional media (ARM – mainly newspapers) to News Corp (ASX: NWS), APN is left with its high quality Australian radio network (ARN), an outdoor media business in Hong Kong and 50% of Adshel (also out-of-home advertising). The three divisions contributed 54%, 7% and 39% in revenues respectively in the first half of 2016 (1H FY2016).
The Australian radio market is highly competitive, but isn’t facing the same structural issues that physical newspapers and commercial television broadcasters are facing. According to APN, the radio market grew by 7.2% in the first half of FY2016.
Major competitor Southern Cross Media Group Ltd (ASX: SXL) reported a 5% increase in revenues in FY2016, with growth in both metro and regional radio. That suggests that plenty of people still listen to radio despite the likes of Apple and Google Music, Spotify and Pandora.
The outdoor advertising market is very strong, as indicated by the surge in growth for APN Outdoor Group Ltd (ASX: APO), oOh!Media Ltd (ASX: OML) and QMS Media Ltd (ASX: QMS) have all recently reported. And it comes in all forms and sizes, from giant billboards on freeways, the sides of buses, trams, trains and ferries, to bus stops, shopping malls and street furniture.
The one fly in the ointment for APN News is its legacy debt. At the end of June, the group had $175.5 million in net debt, but that should fall to $159.6 million, once the sale of ARM goes ahead (The ACCC has called for comment on the proposed acquisition).
At the current price of $3.52, and using some rough calculations, APN News trades on a P/E of around 14.8x for the 2016 financial year (December year-end), and a P/E of ~12x for FY2017. There was no dividend in the first half, but the company may resume paying dividends in future.
That could be a good price to pay for access to the outdoor media market.
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