Apparently so, according to a Reuters report. The No. 2 cable operator has spoken to Cox and Cablevision about possible deals “in recent months” and continues to be interested in them, the news wire says. Execs recognize that the cable industry is mature and poised for consolidation. But they’re also cool to the idea of combining with Charter, a much smaller company that’s seen as a stalking horse for John Malone after his Liberty Media paid $2.6B for a 27.3% stake. The problem: Charter, which has a market value of $12.5B, likely would have to take on a lot of debt in order to buy Time Warner Cable, valued as $32.7B. And Evercore Partners’ Bryan Kraft notes that TWC’s board might “see selling now as premature if it believes management is righting the ship.” TWC already has rejected Malone’s overtures, leading him to take his case directly to its investors, The Wall Street Journal says. TWC, which has about 12M video subscribers, is the only cable company big enough to turn Charter into a major industry player. Investors have waited for years, though, to see TWC (which controls the system in Manhattan) combine with Cablevision (which dominates NYC’s surrounding boroughs and suburbs). TWC has had to bide its time because the Long Island-based Cablevision — with a market value of $4.5B — is controlled by Charles and Jim Dolan, who have shown more interest in taking their company private than in selling. Yet the family seems to have changed its mind as Cablevision has lost ground to rivals led by Verizon and AT&T, Reuters says. Cablevision shares have treaded water this year up to last week, when they spiked 12.4% on reports that Malone might be interested in its systems if he can’t cut a deal with TWC. Cox also would be appealing to TWC because it owns several systems in Southern California, where TWC is strong. Here, too, the company would need to win over a family, this one led by Anne Cox Chambers, which controls the privately held cable operation.
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