Shares are up 8.3% in after-hours trading following the announcement. Investors have long wanted CBS Corp to do something with the billboard unit, which didn’t seem to fit at a company focused on entertainment and news. CEO Les Moonves says he’s “enthusiastic” that the decision to turn the U.S. operation into a Real Estate Investment Trust, and sell the businesses in Europe and Asia, “will achieve significant value for our shareholders.” A REIT doesn’t have to pay corporate taxes but must give investors at least 90% of its taxable income. Last month, Moonves told investors that while CBS Outdoor is “a very good business”, CBS has “explored different options.” He added, though that there was “a very likely potential of keeping it and operating it and doing very well with it.” Analysts expect CBS to report that the Outdoor operation generated about $1.9B in revenue in 2012, up less than 1% vs 2011. Here’s today’s release:
NEW YORK, Jan. 16, 2013 — CBS Corporation (NYSE: CBS.A and CBS) today announced a pair of strategic initiatives regarding its CBS Outdoor operating segment, which is comprised of two businesses — one in the Americas and the other in Europe and Asia.
For the Outdoor Americas division, the Company has begun the process of converting the business into a real estate investment trust (REIT). For its Outdoor operations in Europe and Asia, the Company will pursue a divestiture of the business, which will be presented as a discontinued operation as of December 31, 2012.
“We believe the moves we are announcing today will unlock the tremendous value of these unique quality assets,” said Leslie Moonves, President and Chief Executive Officer, CBS Corporation. “We have studied the benefits of converting our Americas operations into a REIT, and we are increasingly enthusiastic that this transaction — as well as the sale of our business in Europe and Asia — will achieve significant value for our shareholders.”
As part of CBS’s plan to convert its Outdoor Americas division into a REIT, the Company will submit a request for a private letter ruling from the Internal Revenue Service during the first quarter of 2013. If the ruling is granted, the Company could complete the REIT conversion in the taxable year beginning in 2014. All of these actions are subject to customary approvals.