Cashing in on the healthy prices for radio stocks, Radio Unica Communications Corp., the nation's only Spanish-language radio network, plans to raise $98 million through an initial public offering, according to a registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Miami-based network, which owns or operates 13 stations in 10 markets and can be heard on an additional 36 affiliates nationwide, plans to use the proceeds to repay debt and fund acquisitions.
The radio industry has never been healthier, having recorded 80 consecutive quarters of revenue gain, including a record $15 billion in billings last year.
Hispanic Business magazine predicts advertisers will spend about $440 million on Spanish-language radio alone this year, and the Latino population is growing faster than any other segment of the nation's radio audience.
"I think it was a company that was born to go public," said Robert Unmacht, publisher of M Street Journal, a radio business magazine. "For them, it's a very smart move. But they're not going public because of overwhelming support for their product."
Although Radio Unica has positioned its news-talk format, which airs locally on KLBA-AM (1580) and KVCA-AM (670), as a third Spanish-language broadcast option behind the Univision and Telemundo television networks, it has struggled for ratings.
The company lost $10.2 million in 1998 and has more than $108.9 million in long-term debt.
"Their emphasis has been mostly on marketing," Unmacht said. "There's no sense they're in this because they love the programming . . . they're in it to go public."
The managing underwriters for the proposed offering will be Salomon Smith Barney; Bear Stearns; CIBC World Markets; and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette.