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iHeartMedia Stock Drops in NASDAQ Debut

Todd Spangler

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Shares of iHeartMedia, the U.S.’s biggest radio network, fell as much as 7% after they commenced trading Thursday on the NASDAQ Global Select Market, and ended the day down around 3%.

Last month, after exiting a year-long bankruptcy reorg, iHeartMedia announced it was approved for listing on NASDAQ, instead of pursuing an IPO. The company’s shares had previously been traded over-the-counter under the symbol “IHTM,” for $17 per share.

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On Thursday, iHeartMedia shares began trading under the ticker symbol “IHRT.” The price fell as low as $15.75 in early trading, down 7.4%, but gained back some of those losses throughout the day and landed at $16.50 per share (-2.94%) at market’s close.

The company had filed an S-1 earlier this year as prelude to a potential traditional initial public offering, but opted to convert its OTC shares to a listing on the NASDAQ exchange. iHeartMedia’s move to NASDAQ is different from direct listings — which is how Spotify became a publicly traded entity last year — because iHeartMedia’s shares were already previously available to investors.

Formerly known as Clear Channel, iHeartMedia filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2018 after amassing the more than $20 billion in debt following a leveraged buyout a decade earlier.

In January, a U.S. court approved iHeartMedia’s bankruptcy plan, which cut its debt from $16.1 billion to $5.75 billion. The plan calls for iHeartMedia and billboard operator Clear Channel Outdoor to be separated, creating two independent public companies. Also in January, the company said chairman and CEO Bob Pittman and Rich Bressler, president, COO and CFO, extended their contracts by four years.

iHeartMedia owns 848 live broadcast radio stations and operates the iHeartRadio digital service across more than 250 platforms. It’s the second-biggest podcast publisher (after NPR), according to research firm Podtrac, and also stages branded live music events including the iHeartRadio Music Festival and iHeartRadio Music Awards.

According to its regulatory filings, for full-year 2018 iHeartMedia generated $3.6 billion in revenue — essentially flat from the year prior — and posted a net loss of $38 million on a pro-forma basis (backing out Clear Channel Outdoor). Its $976 million of adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization), represents a 27% margin. That, iHeartMedia claimed, is the highest adjusted EBITDA margin of any major advertising-supported audio media company.

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