Nexstar Media Group, Inc. (NXST) Q3 2020 Earnings Call Transcript @themotleyfool #stocks $NXST

Throughout the quarter, we also made significant progress with our leverage reduction and return of capital initiatives as we lowered net debt by $162.5 million and allocated $150.4 million to share repurchases and quarterly cash dividends. At the same time, we had the pedal to the metal in terms of positioning the company for future free cash flow growth. Further deleveraging and increased capital returns to shareholders. In this regard, we completed two capital market transactions that allowed us to further lower our blended cost of capital while extending our maturities, we expanded the share repurchase authorization by an additional $300 million. We announced the operational realignment that combines Nexstar Broadcasting and Nexstar Digital to create operational efficiencies and content monetization opportunities to enhance our financial results. This had the added benefit of increasing the restricted payments capacity under our two outstanding bond issues by approximately $150 million, which allows now for more flexibility and activity under the just noted expanded repurchase authorization. On the operating front, on September 1, we successfully launched News Nation, WGN America’s, Primetime National Newscast which reaches approximately 75 million television households across the country as well as the accompanying News Nation now mobile app and will provide some color on our first two months of operations of those new revenue sources in just a moment. In terms of our primary financial performance metric, we generated approximately $223.2 million of free cash flow in Q3 and have generated nearly $854 million in the first nine months of the year before onetime transaction expenses, with expectations for a strong fourth quarter, Nexstar will finish 2020 with net leverage in the high 3s.

The strength of our business model and enterprisewide focus on managing operations for free cash flow enabled us to bring about $0.20 of every net revenue dollar to the free cash flow line. Reflecting our repurchase of 1.3 million shares in Q3 and 2.25 million shares in 2020 year-to-date, we reduced our issued and outstanding share count to approximately 44.1 million shares. As a result, 2020, year-to-date free cash flow per share amounts to about $19.35 per share compared with $6.90 per share at the same time last year. Furthermore, with approximately $260 million remaining on our share repurchase authorization, we are on plan to continue to return capital to shareholders while aggressively reducing our leverage and pursuing select opportunistic accretive acquisitions. Turning back to Q3. Nexstar’s industry-leading scale, diversified revenue sources and consistent execution resulted in a 70.8% rise in third quarter total television advertising revenue. As we benefited from the recovery in advertising spending across key categories and drove year-over-year increases in same-station new to television business as well as attracting a strong share of political spending in our markets, which by the way, exceeded our internal projections. Nexstar’s local sales initiatives continue to generate healthy levels of new business. In total, our sales teams generated $25.3 million of new-to-television revenue in the third quarter, marking a 22.2% rise over second quarter and a 30.4% rise over the comparable 2019 period. While local and national advertisers initially reacted to the pandemic by modifying their spending, we saw rebounds in the third quarter across several key categories as we generated year-over-year growth in four of our top nine categories. We also saw month-over-month improvements in our same-station core advertising revenue performance continuing from the second quarter throughout the third quarter and into the fourth quarter to date.

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