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"We still really like the entertainment business, and we still think it's a good fit for Clear Channel as a whole."
——Randy Palmer, head of investor relations at Clear Channel.

WILL CLEAR CHANNEL CHOP OFF CONCERT-PROMOTION ARM?

Report Says Radio Giant Looking to Unload
CCE Division
Clear Channel may seek to unload its concert-promotion arm, the New York Post reports.

In a story printed Monday morning, the paper quotes several sources familiar with the matter who said Clear Channel management is considering selling its Clear Channel Entertainment division. It bought the unit, formerly known as SFX, from Bob Sillerman for about $4 billion in stock two years ago.

No discussions with potential buyers have taken place, the paper says, and a company spokesperson denied that Clear Channel is considering putting the division on the block. But many industry experts said shedding the unit makes sense, because it has been a drain on the company's finances.

In the most recent quarter, the entertainment segment—which includes artist representation as well as concert promotion—saw revenue decline 17.7% and fall short of analysts' estimates. Cash flow from the division fell 20% in the third quarter, according to the report.

The unit also has the smallest margins among Clear Channel's divisions, which also include a large outdoor advertising business and some 1,200 radio stations across the country.

Company executives said they have no plans to put the division on the block.

"We still really like the entertainment business, and we still think it's a good fit for Clear Channel as a whole," said Randy Palmer, head of investor relations at Clear Channel.

He said the business did well in the first year after it bought the company in August 2000. However, he added, "after 9/11, business has been hurt tremendously in that people are not attending concerts like they were before."

He told the Post, "2002 has definitely been a recovery year. But it's definitely a business we're still excited about."

Clear Channel has made debt reduction a priority, analysts said. And because it took on more than $1 billion in debt when it bought SFX, the media conglomerate may be forced to sell the unit if the business doesn't improve.

"Clear Channel is clearly focused on maintaining its investment-grade rating," said Drew Marcus, who covers the company for Deutsche Bank Securities. "So if they received a good offer, I'd think they'd consider it."

Sources said investment bankers have held informal discussions with potential buyers about offers for Clear Channel Entertainment. Sources said likely buyers may be Anschutz Entertainment, whose Concert West is the No. 2 concert promoter in the nation, and even former owner Sillerman.

Sillerman told the Post he has heard talk that Clear Channel might put the entertainment division on the block, but he dismissed it as rumor. "I don't believe it's for sale," he said. "I think it's just wishful thinking from potential acquirers. Investment bankers get paid to cook up ideas. I've always believed that the proper home for the company is as part of a larger enterprise."

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