Altice announced today that it is indeed “exploring the possibility” of conducting an initial public offering (IPO) for a minority stake in its U.S. operations.
“No decisions have been taken at this point on the structure or timing of any IPO, and no assurance can be given that an IP will be pursued,” a brief Altice USA statement said.
The announcement follows a Reuters report in October saying the European-based telecom conglomerate was looking at a U.S. IPO.
The move by the company’s Netherlands-based parent, Altice NV, and its French billionaire owner, Patrick Drahi, would capitalize the U.S. operation and allow it to pursue more acquisitions.
Altice USA was formed last year when Altice NV paid $9.1 billion for a controlling interest in Suddenlink Communications and $17.7 billion in cash and debt for Cablevision. Reuters said that Altice USA plans to invite investment banks to make presentations about the potential IPO in the coming weeks.
According to Reuters, the company reportedly could hire IPO underwriters by January and go public sometime next year, depending on market conditions. The IPO could raise around $2 billion, Reuters’ unnamed sources said.
Having a U.S. listing would allow Altice to keep acquiring small and mid-sized telecom companies—acquisitions that could fly under the radar of regulatory scrutiny, Altice believes—while carrying a debt load that has reached 46 billion euros.
The Suddenlink and Cablevision purchases followed Altice’s acquisition of French mobile rival SFR in 2014, which was financed with $21.9 billion-equivalent in debt.
An Altice USA IPO would also allow the company’s institutional investors to cash out in the future. Drahi, Reuters’ sources said, has no intention of giving up control of the company.
Altice's $17.7 billion deal for Cablevision emerged mere months after the Amsterdam-based communications giant agreed to buy U.S. MSO Suddenlink for $9.1 billion. The combined companies give Altice about 4.6 million customers in 20 states, far behind the total clout of Comcast and New Charter, but big enough that those three companies would control a vast majority of the cable broadband market, according to SNL Kagan.