The FCC has quietly approved Altice’s $17.7 billion (including debt) acquisition of Long Island-based Cablevision Systems, saying that although “the public interest benefits are limited, the scales tilt in favor of granting the Applications because of the absence of harms.”
The FCC’s action virtually guarantees that the Paris-based telecom controlled by Patrick Drahi will pick up Cablevision’s 3.1 million subscribers — including 2.6 million video customers primarily in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. It’s had 1.45 million in the U.S. since December when it bought a controlling stake in Suddenlink.
New York city and state officials still must sign off on the Cablevision deal. They’re expected to do so this month.
Altice says it’s “pleased” with the decision and is making “good progress towards a transaction closing in the second quarter of this year.”
The FCCs Wireline Competition Bureau said that it was persuaded that the deal “would reduce vertical integration by eliminating any common control between Cablevision’s cable operations and its programming interests.” CEO Jim Dolan and his father, company founder Charles, control MSG Networks’ regional sports networks as well as AMC Networks. .
Regulators say that Altice likely will invest to upgrade Cablevision’s systems due to “the presence of competitors in the New York Metro area” including Verizon’s FiOS and AT&T’s U-verse.
They also appeared unfazed by the substantial debt Altice will assume. It’s issuing $8.6 billion and picking up $5.9 billion from Cablevision — puting its annual interest payments at $1.1 billion.
Altice is “a large international company that is likely to be better able to raise capital than Cablevision as a stand-alone entity,” regulators said.