Charter And Cox In Merger Talks: Report

Deal discussions seem to be at an early stage according to the report about them today on Bloomberg, citing “two people with knowledge of the matter.” Execs haven’t decided how a deal might be structured, or even who’d be the acquirer. Still, the disclosure of Cox President Pat Esser’s conversations with Liberty Media, which owns 27% of Charter, helped to send cable stocks on a wild ride today. Charter jumped 3.7% in mid-day trading while Time Warner Cable — another potential target for Charter — is -2.3%. (Cablevision is up about 4% after CEO Jim Dolan said he wouldn’t rule out a sale.) Analyst Craig Moffett says a combo of Charter and privately held Cox “makes a ton of sense for Charter.” The companies are close in size (Charter with 4.4M subs and Cox with 4.8M). Since they could merge as equals, “nosebleed leverage wouldn’t be necessary” leaving open the possibility of making additional deals. In addition, a merger would make Charter and Cox “a player of real scale” able to negotiate lower prices from broadcasters and cable networks. The analyst adds that Liberty Chairman John Malone is close with Cox Enterprises’ Jim Kennedy.

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