Gray Television has offered Tegna approximately $8.5 billion, including debt, to acquire the company, Reuters reported Friday.
Tegna stock shot up 30 percent Friday morning on news of the deal and was trading at $15.62 per share, up more than 16 percent, by mid-Friday afternoon. Gray’s stock was down more than 5 percent to $14.93 per share. Neither company has yet commented officially on the deal.
According to Reuters, Gray, which is smaller than Tegna, offered approximately $20 per share for the company in cash and stock. Gray has $3.8 billion in debt, and this acquisition would add significantly to that, but sources told Reuters that Gray has a plan to pay that down quickly.
Consolidation has been the name of the game in the television station business for several years now, with groups merging across the board in an attempt to gain scale and keep up with other major media players.
Last year, Nexstar finally acquired Tribune for $7.2 billion, after an unsuccessful attempt to do the same by Sinclair in 2017. Sinclair did manage to acquire Fox’s 21 regional sports networks for $10.6 billion, including debt, after Fox was acquired by Disney last March. Private equity firm Apollo Global Management last year acquired Cox’s TV and radio stations for more than $3 billion, including debt. Apollo also has been interested in Tegna, according to Reuters.
Tegna, which includes the broadcast portion of the business that Gannett spun off in 2015, includes 62 television stations in 51 U.S. markets that reach 39 percent of U.S. television households. Atlanta-based Gray Television operates in 93 television markets and covers about 24 percent of U.S. television households. Due to Tegna’s size, which already hits the 39 percent ownership cap set by the FCC, Gray would likely have to divest TV stations should the merger go through.
Last month, Tegna sold Gray a minority stake in Premiom, Tegna’s over-the-top advertising platform.