John Malone’s back in the U.S. cable business. His Liberty Media has agreed to pay $95.50 a share for most of the stakes in Charter currently owned by Apollo Management, Oaktree Capital Management and Crestview Partners. (Crestview will hang on to 7.4% of Charter and Oaktree will keep 2.2%.) The transactions likely will close “in the first half of the second quarter” of this year, the companies say. When that happens Liberty will control four seats on Charter’s board: They’ll be held by Liberty chairman Malone, Liberty CEO Greg Maffei, Liberty Global CTO Nair Balan, and Barnes & Noble CFO Michael Huseby. But Liberty can’t take over Charter just yet. Malone’s company agreed not to up its stake in Charter beyond 35% until January 2016 and after that must stay below 39.99%. Malone was considered the king of cable in the U.S. until 1999 when he sold Tele-Communications Inc — the dominant operator at the time — to AT&T. Charter had about 4M video subscribers at the end of 2012, making it the No. 4 cable operator.
Charter shares jumped 10% yesterday, to $98.04, when word of the deal leaked, and are up an additional 1% this morning. Liberty was up 3.8% yesterday and a little under 1% this morning. “Our initial read is that this is OK for Liberty, Sirius, and other assets in Liberty’s portfolio, although we await additional detail on the ‘new loan arrangements’ used to finance the transaction,” Lazard Capital Markets’ Barton Crockett says.
Here’s today’s announcement: (more…)