Cablevision Stock Soars As Suddenlink Deal Fuels Merger Speculation

The Long Island-based cable operator’s shares are up more than 12% — and touched a 52-week high of $23.69 — as investors salivate over the possibility that it will become a coveted piece of a potential industrywide consolidation. This morning Luxembourg-based Altice Group joined the fray with an agreement to buy Suddenlink — and has begun to talk with Time Warner Cable about a potential deal.

That follows John Malone-controlled Charter Communications’ decision this week to “re-affirm” its $10.4 billion plan to buy Advance/Newhouse’s Bright House Networks.

Industry watchers expect the two companies, and possibly others, to lead a consolidation charge. That’s the “primary driver of sentiment” about cable on Wall Street, Guggenheim’s Michael Morris says this morning.

Cablevision’s seen as an especially attractive target: It has 3.1 million customers, including 2.7 million cable TV subscribers, with most concentrated in the suburbs around New York City. That would make it a natural fit with Time Warner Cable, which controls Manhattan.

Early this month Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan made it clear that he’d be glad to entertain offers. Consolidation of the New York market “would fuel ingenuity, provide much more access to resources for the customers, and lower prices – and I think would be a great business,” he said at a cable industry convention.

TWC could be a buyer or a seller following the collapse of its $45 billion agreement to sell itself to Comcast. The No. 1 cable operator withdrew the offer after FCC and Justice Department officials said they believed the combination would give Comcast too much clout in the fast-growing broadband market.

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