Emmis still facing NASDAQ-delisting danger

Emmis Communications Corp. still faces the prospect of having its stock delisted from the NASDAQ exchange after shares closed below the necessary threshhold of $1 on Tuesday.

The Indianapolis-based media company came within two days of avoiding the potential delisting when its shares closed above $1 during a recent eight-day trading run.

On Nov. 1, NASDAQ notified Emmis that it no longer was in compliance with an exchange rule that requires members to carry a minimum stock price of $1. Company shares had closed below $1 per share for 30 consecutive business days, triggering the notice.

To regain compliance, Emmis shares must trade above $1 for 10 consecutive business days before May 2, or they face delisting.

But the Indianapolis-based media company’s stock fell to 97 cents on Tuesday.

Emmis shares traded below $1 from Sept. 21 to Jan. 11 before they soared 42 percent on Jan. 12 to close the day at $1.22 each. Rising revenue and Emmis’ reiteration that it is “actively pursuing” the sale of some of its radio stations drove the increase.

The stock gained another 13 percent on Jan. 13, closing at $1.38, but slid to $1.04 on Monday before closing below the NASDAQ minimum on Tuesday.

Emmis shares dropped even farther on Wednesday, to 93 cents each in mid-morning trading.

Without NASDAQ, Emmis shares 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.

This is not the first time Emmis has faced delisting. The company escaped the same position in October 2009 when improved performance helped its stock climb above the minimum mark after spending more than a year below it. Emmis also avoided the delisting because NASDAQ suspended its minimum-bid rule for almost a year due to the recession.

The company seemed to be in a secure position on the exchange when its shares reached as high as $2.38 in April 2010, but the stock plummeted in the wake of a failed attempt by Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan to take the company private last summer.

Absent the sale of assets, the company believes it will be unlikely to maintain compliance with financial covenants after Sept. 1, 2011. Failure to comply would put Emmis in default on its $345 million of senior bank debt, causing it to come due more rapidly.

Emmis’ debt levels are staggering for a company pulling in roughly $240 million a year in revenue. Through the first nine months of its current fiscal year, which ends Feb. 28, Emmis earned a profit from its operations of $24 million. After a 27-percent decline in radio revenue the previous year, Emmis has enjoyed a 4-percent rise so far this fiscal year.

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