* Newport sells 12 stations for $1 bln
* Nexstar buys 12, Sinclair buys 6 and Cox Media buys 4
* Sinclair expects deal to be immediately accretive
* Nexstar says it has secured committed financing for deal
July 19 (Reuters) – Nexstar Broadcasting Group, Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc and Cox Media Group entered into separate deals to buy 22 television stations from privately held Newport Television for about $1 billion.
A robust advertising market, the growing importance of retransmission fees and improved access for funding have set a stage for TV station mergers.
Reuters reported in March that Newport Television, owned by Providence Equity Partners, had retained Moelis & Co to explore strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the company.
Nexstar bought 12 stations, Sinclair Broadcast six and Cox Media four, Newport said in a statement.
Nexstar, which said it had secured commitments for a new $645 million credit facility, paid $285.5 million for 12 stations in Utah, Arkansas, Tennessee and New York. It said the stations would immediately add to earnings.
Sinclair Broadcast said it bought the six Newport stations for $412.5 million. It also said it would buy a station from Bay Television Inc, which owns WTTA-TV in Florida, for $40 million.
Sinclair said it expects the stations to add between $55 million and $60 million to pro forma TV operating cash flow for 2012 and 2013.
Newport said it was continuing to pursue the sale of its five remaining stations in California, Oregon and New York.
Shares of Baltimore-based Sinclair were down 2 percent at $9.62 in early afternoon trade on the Nasdaq on Thursday, while Nexstar shares were up 8 percent at $6.65.