Smart Radio Group stations for sale | radioinfo

Smart Radio Group stations for sale

Tuesday 19 April, 2011

Brad Smart has put his regional Queensland radio stations on the market. The Smart Radio Group owns and operates seven radio stations across Queensland, including 4VL and Triple C FM Charleville, 4LM Mt Isa, 4ZR Roma, 4HI Emerald, 4SB Kingaroy and Hot Country. Smart has told radioinfo: “The stations are in areas that are expanding because of mining and natural gas, there’s a lot of people and money coming into these listening areas.”


The sale has been getting a bit of media coverage since Smart advertised it last week. A detailed article appeared in the Australian Financial Review about the sale, and mention was also made of it on ABC TV’s Q&A program.


The Financial Review article speculated that the group of stations would fetch between $7-10 million because “they cover an enormous geographic spread,” but Smart told radioinfo those estimated figures did not come from him.

“It’s up to the buyers to make an offer, the Finanial Review seems to have worked out their own figures, but we are not rushing into print with any figures. We are talking to anyone who is interested, they can do their due diligence, and then we will talk figures with them.”

Some of the interest has come from “local players in the listening area wanting to buy back the stations into local hands,” while Smart has also had interest from “some of the major players.”


Why is he selling?

“I’m 60, and it came up mighty fast,” he told radioinfo. “Judy and I last had a holiday in 1995, so we thought it’s time to reduce our involvement. If the buyer wants me to stay on in an advisory capacity I will, or they may just want to take over the stations and run them themselves.”

With most regional stations owned by large networks, Smart saw that his group needed to grow bigger or to sell. “It was unlikely I was going to be able to get massively bigger, so it seemed like the right time to reduce our involvement.”


Smart strives to build the success of his stations on localism, within the bounds of the regional revenue base. “Most stations have live and local breakfast shows, and they all have local news,” says Smart. Network programs taken on the stations include Greg Carey’s 4BC morning show, Jono and Dano, Alan Jones’ highlights package, and an NRL sports show. Other shifts are locally automated. The network has installed a sophisticated satellite feed system enhanced by a wide area network control system, with Smart making a significant investment in equipment in recent years.

“The business has good infrastructure and good people like Geoff Speed leading it. It’s a good investment,” according to Smart.


The Emerald and Mt Isa stations are in the heart of Queensland mining country, while the Kingaroy and Roma stations are in the Surat basin, where a new LNG natural gas project is opening up.


“Roma for example used to be a sleepy little town, now it has 8,000 people in it and a big new shopping centre. The local council is planning new industrial and housing estates to accommodate growth to a population of 20,000 people in the next ten years, so it is becoming a very lucrative town… there’s a lot of money in these towns.”



When revenue was tight during the drought Smart thought his stations would struggle, but they appear to have come out the other side still in good shape, with good growth potential.


Regional operators also have to content with the prospect of the hated ‘trigger events’ that may force new owners to lock in prescribed rates of local content, but that rule is currently under review.


Another challenge down the track for regional stations is the coming of digital radio. While Brad Smart thinks digital will be a positive move for the radio industry he is pretty sure his stations will not have to worry too much about that for some years to come. “Our stations will be in some of the last regions to convert to digital so it will be some time yet, and we are hopeful that the government will help with blackspot transmission funding in regions like ours… the industry’s move to digital was not a deciding factor in thinking about this sale.”


The AM stations in the Smart Radio Network have a talk, sport and heritage music format, while Triple C is an adult contemporary music format.



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