Hungry European telecom conglomerate Altice could be prepping a bid as high as $185 billion for Charter Communications.
According to Reuters, the No. 2 U.S. cable company is worth $180 billion including debt—but excluding any takeover premium.
However, analysts have serious doubts as to whether Altice—which has a market cap of around $23 billion to go along with $22.6 billion in debt—has the balance sheet needed to entice Charter shareholders, notably the cable company’s biggest investor, Liberty Broadband and its chief, John Malone.
“On the most positive view of synergies, we don’t think there is enough value for Malone and other Charter investors to accept a deal where they cede control, despite holding the majority of the pro forma equity, while taking on the risk associated with a deal,” said a New Street Research investor memo spearheaded by analyst Jonathan Chaplin.
“I’m sure it is very flattering to Charter to be the apple of so many companies’ eyes,” added MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett. “But none of the rumored suitors—whether Verizon, SoftBank or Altice—has the balance-sheet firepower to mount an offer that is more attractive than their go-it-alone strategy. All this M&A talk is titillating but isn’t likely to amount to anything.”
Meanwhile, responding to questions about the various Charter takeover rumors during Liberty’s second-quarter earnings all, Liberty Broadband Chairman Greg Maffei said, “We of course will listen to all and any offers that come in and judge them on their merit and appeal. Any deal that would be appealing for us and other Charter shareholders would have to have real value and show real capabilities that are beyond what we think is a very well-positioned company.”
CNBC on Wednesday reported that Altice’s Franco-Israeli czar, Patrick Drahi, became motivated to put together a Charter offer following an attempt by another highly leveraged global telecom company, Japan’s SoftBank, to either merge Charter with its U.S. wireless company, Sprint, or buy the cable company outright.
Altice is now the fourth biggest cable operator in the U.S., having paid $17.7 billion to acquire Cablevision and $9.1 billion to buy Suddenlink Communications. Altice sold investors on these highly leveraged acquisitions by touting $1 billion in synergies in the first few years of operations—promises the conglomerate seems to be making good on one year after closing these deals.
"Altice management fundamentally believes that U.S. cable...margins should be substantially higher than where they are at currently, which along with a willingness to put high leverage on (Charter) underpins what could be a relatively aggressive bid," said Jeff Wlodarczak, an analyst at Pivotal Research, in an email to Reuters.