European telecom magnate Patrick Drahi told a French parliamentary hearing Wednesday that Charter Communications' (NASDAQ: CHTR) $56.7 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) is actually a win for his burgeoning Altice SA telecom empire.
"Time is on our side" for the U.S. expansion, said Drahi, who was quoted by Reuters. "The two leaders, Comcast and Charter, will not be able to buy anything else because of their size so we will have an open boulevard ahead of us ... If I buy five small operators, I can be as big as Time Warner Cable."
Drahi's Luxembourg-based Altice has already announced a $9.1 billion deal to become a majority owner in St. Louis-based Suddenlink Communications. Drahi conceded at the hearing that he'd spoken with TWC chief executive Rob Marcus, but he concluded that the No. 2 cable operator in the U.S. was too big a prize to digest, given Altice's limited U.S. management resources.
"I didn't follow up on the exchanges we had on Time Warner Cable that were mentioned in the media because we were not ready," Drahi said.
With Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) expansion options limited by regulatory mandate, and Charter and TWC tied up for the foreseeable future in their own regulatory process, Drahi will survey a U.S. M&A landscape that includes, on the larger side, Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) and Cox Communications. Midsize asset Mediacom is also getting looked at, as are smaller concerns like Cable One.
Asked at the hearing specifically about Cablevision, and if he was concerned about the fierce battle the cable company is fighting against Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) FiOS service in the suburban New York market, Drahi replied, "It's good actually since it means they know how to compete."
- read this Reuters story
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