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Clear Channel Outdoor puts Chinese advertising division up for sale

Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, one of the world's largest outdoor advertising companies, said Friday that it's considering selling a controlling stake in China bus shelter advertiser Clear Media. 

Clear Media is the largest owner of advertising panels in Chinese bus shelters, generating roughly $105 million in sales in the first six months of the year. Clear Channel owns slightly more than 50% of Clear Media, which is based in Hong Kong. 

The disclosure of a possible sale, which has not been previously reported, came on Friday in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.The company said it was conducting a strategic review of its stake in Clear Media, which could include selling the assets.

As of June, Clear Media had the largest bus shelter ad network in mainland China, with more than 54,000 panel in 24 cities, according to Clear Channel. 

It's not clear why Clear Channel would want to sell its Clear Media stake. Last year, Clear Media's owner disclosed that several of the company's employees were under investigation by Chinese police for allegedly misappropriating funds. The company hasn't provided any recent updates on the status of the probe.  

Mounting financial losses

Clear Channel was spun off from radio station operator iHeartMedia in December of 2018, and began trading as an independent company in May. Its move to consider selling the assets comes as Clear Channel struggles with increasing losses and a steep drop in its stock price. 

The company's shares have sunk more than 50% this year to $2.48 as of Friday's close. Clear Channel lost more than $200 million in the third quarter, compared with just over $60 million in the year-ago period.

A potential sale also comes as U.S.-Chinese trade tensions have escalated over the past two years. Last week, U.S. negotiators announced that talks to produce a new trade deal between the two countries were on track.

"Clear Media Limited, our Chinese subsidiary, remains cautious about the operating environment in 2019 as uncertainty continues in China's overall economy," the company said in releasing its third-quarter earnings earlier this month. 

Clear Channel Outdoor could not be reached for comment.

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