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Emmis on way to avoiding stock delisting

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Indianapolis-based media company Emmis Communications Corp. is halfway home to maintaining its listing on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

NASDAQ notified Emmis in September that it would be delisted from the exchange if the company’s stock didn’t rise above the minimum bid price of $1 per share for 10 straight business days before March 15.

Emmis shares closed Monday at $1.50, marking five straight days in which its stock price has exceeded the $1 benchmark.

Emmis’ string of closings above $1 began on Oct. 13, when shares ended the day at $1.15. Shares hadn't traded for more than $1 in more than a year.  The stock price rose to $1.32 last Wednesday and was relatively unchanged the next day before rising to $1.46 on Friday. Shares climbed to $1.50 on Monday, marking their highest closing since September 2008.

Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker, who follows Emmis, wrote in a report earlier this month that September revenue, which will be reported in the company’s fiscal third-quarter results, was better than August's. And so far, October seems to be looking healthier than September, she said.

The news is having a positive impact on Emmis stock, she said.

“Comments from Emmis management confirm what we have been hearing from other large and small market groups—trends continue to improve month to month,” Ryvicker wrote.

She is forecasting a 2-percent decline in industry-wide radio revenue in 2010, but that's much improved from the industry’s recent performance.

In its fiscal second quarter ended Aug. 31, Emmis suffered a whopping loss of $135.6 million. Much of the loss was attributed to a $160.9 million impairment charge the company took related to the declining value of its Federal Communications Commission radio licenses. The company earned $1.2 million in the same quarter a year earlier.

Emmis' quarterly revenue of $68 million in the second quarter was down 27 percent, from $93.7 million in the same period a year ago.

Patrick Walsh, Emmis’ chief operating officer and chief financial officer, told IBJ following the delisting threat that he thought the stock was showing signs of life after bottoming out in July at 24 cents.

“We’re actually hopeful through our own operating performance that our stock will continue to rise, and the situation will remedy itself,” he said last month.

Emmis and many other broadcasters have been weighed down by heavy debt, falling advertising revenue and the perception that radio is a bygone medium.

But several radio companies posted double-digit percentage gains in their stock prices through the first two quarters of the year. Broadcasters are hoping to get an additional boost from the installation of FM receivers in Apple iPods.

NASDAQ suspended its minimum-stock-price requirement rule last fall after financial markets tanked, but reinstated the rule Aug. 3

Should Emmis fail to meet NASDAQ’s 10-day demand, its stock would be relegated to penny-stock status on the over-the-counter bulletin board or the pink sheets. Once that happens, shares are harder to buy and sell, because by then a company has less liquidity, said Tom Gjerde, an economics and finance professor at Butler University’s College of Business.

“The biggest thing is that [a delisting] has a negative psychological effect on investors,” he said. “It doesn’t really motivate you to purchase the stock.”

Emmis could appeal any decision to delist its shares, the company said.

Emmis operates local radio stations WIBC-FM 93.1, WLHK-FM 97.1, WYXB-FM 105.7 and WFNI-AM 1070.

 

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