Thursday, October 29, 2015

TWC, Charter Expected To Now Close In 2016

By Anya George Tharakan

(Reuters) - Charter Communications Inc <CHTR.O> said its acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc <TWC.N>, which is awaiting clearance from U.S. regulators, is now expected to close in the first quarter 2016, and not by the end of 2015 as planned.

The $56 billion deal, announced in May, is subject to intense regulatory scrutiny as the combined company would control a big swath of the U.S. cable and Internet market.

Tom Rutledge
"Realistically, we think we're looking at a first-quarter close," Charter Chief Executive Tom Rutledge said on a call on Thursday to discuss the company's third-quarter results.

The deal has been approved by the shareholders of both companies and most U.S. states, but is awaiting clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

"From an operational perspective, we are working to be in a position to close as early as this year, but admittedly at this point that feels ambitious," a Time Warner Cable executive said on a post-earnings call, declining to provide details.

National Association of Broadcasters and Dish Network Corp <DISH.O> have separately petitioned the FCC to reject the proposed merger, which Dish said would be no better for public interest than Comcast's proposed deal.

Comcast Corp <CMCSA.O> dropped its $45 billion bid for Time Warner Cable in April after regulators raised concerns that the deal would give the market leader an unfair advantage.
"One could argue that if Charter can't buy them, no one can," MoffetNathanson analysts said in a note.

"But, unlike the case with Comcast a year ago, those odds (of the deal being approved) seem to be rising, not falling."

Shares of Time Warner Cable and Charter were up 1.8 percent and 2 percent, respectively, in morning trading on Thursday after both companies posted strong third-quarter results.

Time Warner Cable posted a better-than-expected adjusted profit as, on a net basis, it added more high-speed data customers than expected and lost fewer net video subscribers than feared.

While the company is benefiting from rising demand for high-speed internet services, it has moved to stem video subscriber losses by offering "triple play bundling" services that combine pay-TV, high speed data and voice services.

Charter swung to a quarterly profit, also helped by its Internet business, as well as a $142 million tax benefit.

Cable companies have been grappling with declining subscriber numbers as viewers shift to cheaper and more flexible services from Netflix Inc <NFLX.O>, Inc <AMZN.O> and Hulu.

(Reporting by Anya George Tharakan and Sai Sachin R in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)

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