Nexstar Media Group (NASDAQ:NXST) share slipped on Wednesday after Wells Fargo downgraded the media company, noting concerns about free cash flow in 2023 as continued cord cutting and higher interest payments may weigh down its financial position.
Analyst Steven Cahall lowered his rating on Nexstar Media Group (NXST) to equal weight from overweight, noting that along with cord cutting, higher interest payments, along with the company's recent acquisition of the CW Network could keep shares "range bound" from $155 to $175 for a while.
"While [free cash flow] could go a few ways, our bias is to the downside given the magnitude of increasing cash interest, accelerating cord cutting and the potential for ads to slow further," Cahall wrot ein a note to clients. "FCF guidance could be maintained if NXST's operational excellence offsets the exogenous headwinds. We can see the threats clearly, whereas the opportunities are less obvious."
Looking ahead, Nexstar Media Group (NXST) said its guidance for retransmission fees in 2023 would be in the "mid-teens" and that net revenue from virtual multichannel video programming distributors, or vMVPDs, is similar to multichannel video programming distributors, and would not be a "headwind" to free cash flow. But Cahall thinks that the outlook for the industry, particularly as it relates to churn, is worse than thought.
"...We think broadcast industry sub churn has been coming in at -5% y/y and that's what's baked into guidance ranges, whereas we think the latest Q3 trends indicate it's heading to more like -7%," Cahall added, noting it's likely that retrans guidance moves to +12-13%, down from mid-teens.
Separately, the acquisition of The CW Network is likely to drag on free cash flow by roughly $100M for the next two years, Cahall added.
Late last month, Nexstar Media (NXST) declared its 90-cent-per share quarterly dividend, payable to shareholders of record as of November 14 on November 28.
Analysts are universally incredibly positive on Nexstar Media Group (NXST). It has a BUY rating from Seeking Alpha authors, while Wall Street analysts rate it a STRONG BUY. Seeking Alpha's quant system, which consistently beats the market, also rates NXST a BUY.