CBS converting advertising unit to REIT

AP News
Posted: Jan 16, 2013 5:24 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — CBS Corp. said Wednesday that it is converting its U.S. outdoor advertising business to a real estate investment trust and selling the international portion of the business. Investors applauded the move and shares jumped in after-hours trading.

The announcement follows a similar move made by billboard operator Lamar Advertising Co. in August.

REITs return 90 percent of their profits to shareholders. By spinning the outdoor business into the new structure, CBS is betting that the business will be valued at a higher multiple of earnings than its core business of TV and radio broadcasting. It wasn't immediately clear how much of the REIT that CBS would continue to own.

"We believe the moves we are announcing today will unlock the tremendous value of these unique quality assets," said CBS' chief executive, Leslie Moonves, in a statement.

CBS shares rose $3.18, or 8.4 percent, in after-hours trading to $41.12.

The media company said Wednesday that it will submit a request for a private letter ruling to the IRS during the first quarter. If that is granted, it could complete the REIT conversion in 2014.

It did not set a timetable for the sale of its outdoor advertising business in Europe and Asia.