Some house-cleaning before his next big US deal?

By David Meyer
August 10, 2017

The Netherlands-based telecommunications and cable company Altice has announced that it now has 95.9 percent of the shares in its French SFR subsidiary, and it wants to buy out the rest.

The move looks like a bit of house-cleaning before Alice’s founder, the Israeli-French billionaire Patrick Drahi, turns his attention to the grander vision of expanding in the U.S.. Various reports Wednesday said Drahi is working on a bid to buy the U.S. telecoms outfit Charter Communications. The two pieces of news bumped up Altice’s share price on the Amsterdam stock exchange by 2.2 percent on Thursday morning.

Altice is the second-largest telecoms company in France, behind Orange. It is also becoming increasingly active in the U.S., through its Altice USA subsidiary, which owns the regional cable companies Cablevision and Suddenlink. Altice USA listed on the New York Stock Exchange in June, a move that was widely seen as preparing for more acquisitions in the U.S..

 

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Ahead of its U.S. IPO, Altice USA had said it believes “the U.S. broadband communications and video services market offers a number of attractive opportunities to grow our business through strategic acquisitions.”

Charter Communications, the second-largest U.S. cable company, may be Altice’s latest target, but Sprint majority owner SoftBank is also interested. Charter’s largest shareholder, the Liberty Media group of John Malone which holds around 21%, has said it will listen to any reasonable offers as its plots out a long-term future for its investment.

With SFR, Altice said it intends to file its buyout offer, with the French markets watchdog AMF next month. It’s offering €34.50 ($40.38) a share. It will use the AMF’s “squeeze-out” provisions to raise its stake to 100% if need be.

The company tried buying out the SFR shares it didn’t already own last year, back when it only had a 78 percent stake, with the offer of a share swap. However, the regulator blocked the move because it was not giving minority shareholders enough information. Since then, Altice has been buying up SFR shares in private transactions.

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