11 August 2017
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
Altice appears to be preparing a bid of $185 billion or more for US cable operator Charter Communications, according to widespread reports.
At the same time the company has announced that it now owns
more than 95% of French mobile operator SFR and will squeeze
out minority shareholders next month.
Altice is already one of the biggest cable operators in the
US, with Suddenlink and Optimum, which it bought it two
transactions worth $26 billion in 2015. Now, according to a
variety of sources, including CNBC, the Financial Times and
Reuters, Altice is joining the competition for Charter
Communications. Sprint, controlled by SoftBank, was also named
last week at having its sights on Charter. Verizon is
understood to have looked at it last year.
CNBC points out that John Malone’s Liberty
Media controls 20.5% of Charter’s equity and 25%
of its voting shares, and either Patrick Drahi, head of Altice,
or Masayoshi Son, head of SoftBank, would have to persuade him
– and find the resources to buy the company at a cost
said to be from $195 million to $200 million.
Meanwhile Altice is close to a resolution of its takeover of
SFR, which began with the acquisition of 80% from Vivendi in
November 2014 for €13.37 billion. Altice has gradually
increased its stake and has announced that it owns 95.9% of the
share capital and voting rights of SFR Group.
That puts it above the 95% threshold that allows it to
approach France’s Autorité des
marchés financiers (AMF, financial markets authority)
for approval to squeeze out the other shareholders. Altice has
offered €34.50 a share – compared with
SFR’s latest price of €31.45 – and
hopes to complete the buy-out in September.