Altice owner says wasn't ready for Time Warner Cable deal

Wed May 27, 2015 9:27am EDT
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By Leila Abboud

PARIS (Reuters) - Patrick Drahi, the billionaire owner of European telecoms group Altice, said he didn't bid for Time Warner Cable because his company lacked management resources to digest such a big deal in a market it had only recently entered.

"I didn't follow up on the exchanges we had on Time Warner Cable (TWC) that were mentioned in the media because we were not ready," Drahi told a French parliamentary hearing on Wednesday.

The 51-year-old Franco-Israeli businessman met with TWC chief executive Robert Marcus last week, but decided not to move ahead despite having lined up French and foreign banks willing to finance the deal.

Instead, U.S. number three cable group Charter Communications, backed by Drahi's mentor turned rival, cable tycoon John Malone, agreed on Tuesday to buy number two TWC for $56 billion.

Drahi defended his decision saying the previously announced purchase of U.S. regional cable firm Suddenlink Communications for $9.1 billion was a "modest" way for Altice to enter the U.S. market and test its ability there.

A deal for TWC would have been a step too far, too fast, Drahi said, quadrupling the number of U.S. employees of Altice companies to nearly 120,000 in a market it barely knew.

"Time is on our side" for the U.S. expansion, Drahi said.

"The two leaders Comcast and Charter will not be able to buy anything else because of their size so we will have an open boulevard ahead of us ... If I buy five small operators, I can be as big as Time Warner Cable."   Continued...

Patrick Drahi, Franco-Israeli businessman, Executive Chairman of cable and mobile telecoms company Altice and founder of Numericable arrives to attend a hearing at the French National Assembly in Paris, France, May 27, 2015. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer