Altice will take a shopping spree break, CEO says … unless Cox is suddenly available

Altice CEO Dexter Goei said the company will pause its aggressive M&A activity after proposing last week to buy Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) for $17.7 billion. Altice, he said, will take some time to integrate its new purchases and trim costs.

"We owe it to our investors, both on the debt and equity side, to pause on the pace of the acquisitions, particularly on the sizable ones," Goei said in an interview with Bloomberg

The buying break has one caveat: Altice will pursue privately held Cox Communications if the MSO -- which has generally resisted a sale of the company -- were to suddenly become available.

"Six to nine months is nothing. We may pause for two years because we still have a huge amount of organic growth internally," Goei said. "The only thing that would make us scratch our heads is if Cox came up and said 'I'm going to auction my business.'"

For its part, No. 4 U.S. cable operator Cox reiterated its not-for-sale position; "We've been clear about our position, that we are not for sale, though we are open to anything that would help us grow," said company spokesman Todd Smith.

Altice's recent shopping spree includes its $9.1 billion purchase of a controlling stake in Suddenlink Communications back in May, as well as the closure of its $8.26 billion acquisition of Portugal Telecom in June. In July, Altice paid $669 million to buy France's NextRadioTV. The company expects its proposed purchase of Cablevision to close early next year.

"We're trying to commit ourselves to not doing anything because we have some execution work to do," Goei said. "The Cox family can wait. They've been in there for 40 years. They can wait another couple of years."

Altice is based in France and is backed by French billionaire Patrick Drahi. The company owns cable and phone operations across a wide swath of European countries. In the United States, Altice's cable ambitions are running up against heavyweights like Comcast as well as the proposed combination of Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable and Bright House networks. Federal regulators are currently reviewing that merger, which would create the nation's second-largest cable player.

For more:
- read this Bloomberg story

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