Time Warner Cable Also Being Wooed By French Suitor

It’s like something out of a romantic comedy that stars a couple of mid-level TV actors and gets dumped into theaters in mid-March: Fresh on the heels of being left at the altar by big-bucks beau Comcast, Time Warner Cable apparently finds itself being courted by a pair of very different suitors — a nice guy from Connecticut with rich friends and a mysterious French billionaire currently on a stateside shopping spree.

We already knew about Charter trying to play rebound-romance with TWC. Even though the Stamford, CT-based cable/ISP operator is significantly smaller than the target of its affection, the move is really being driven by billionaire John C. Malone, the Chairman of Charter’s biggest shareholder, Liberty Media.

Geographically, that deal would make sense, as Charter’s current markets would give the combined companies increased coverage in the Northeast — TWC already blankets New York City and much of upstate NY; Charter would fill in several markets in Connecticut and Massachusetts — the Carolinas — TWC is the dominant provider in North Carolina and has spotty markets in the South; Charter would increase coverage in both states — and in the Los Angeles area where TWC is the prime pay-TV and broadband provider.

So it would be a sensible deal from a business perspective, melding two of the country’s largest providers. Whether or not regulators approve it is another topic entirely, though FCC Chair Tom Wheeler has let it be known that his Commission is not taking a default anti-merger stance.

But is the deal that Charter and its American billionaire backer put together going to be sexier than the one reportedly being handcrafted by French billionaire Patrick Drahi and his company Altice?

Altice has already made a deal this month to acquire 70% of regional broaband/cable company Suddenlink for $9.1 billion, and yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that Drahi met with merger-mad TWC CEO Rob Marcus to chat about the possibility of an international romance.

Then this morning Reuters reports that things are getting serious, as Altice looks to line up banks to back its bid for the Manhattan-based #2 cable company.

Reuters’ sources say it’s not definite that Altice will make an official bid for TWC, but that talks are ongoing.

We’d be shocked if any bid for TWC comes close to the $45 billion price tag of the failed Comcast merger. Charter only offered around $31 billion before being dumped because TWC knew it could get a lot more from Comcast, but now TWC may be more flexible about its worth.

Altice has already splashed down $40 billion for different acquisitions in just the last 18 months. Is the company prepared to double that just to acquire Time Warner Cable?

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