US agency OKs Clear Channel buyout

The US Justice Department allowed two private-equity firms to go ahead with a $19.5 billion buyout of Clear Channel Communications, the largest operator of radio stations in the US, an Associated Press report said.

To address competition concerns, the agency is requiring Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners to sell four radio stations in Cincinnati, Houston, Las Vegas and San Francisco, the Associated Press report said.

The firms currently own stakes in other radio broadcasters in those markets, the department said.

Without the sale, 'advertisers that rely on radio advertising in the affected cities likely would have faced higher prices,' Thomas O. Barnett, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department's Antitrust Division, quoted by the Associated Press report, said.

The Federal Communications Commission approved the deal to take Clear Channel private last month, contingent on the San Antonio-based company selling radio stations in 42 markets, the report said.

Clear Channel grew into a media giant following a 1996 law that eliminated the national limit on how many radio stations a single company may own. It also owns a successful outdoor advertising business, with billboards in high-profile locations like Times Square in New York City and Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The company has previously said it expects the deal to close in the first quarter of 2008, the Associated Press report further said.

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