May 23, 2017 / 2:33 PM / 5 months ago

Altice U.S. cable growth a priority as it explores wireless: founder

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Altice USA, the cable operator created from Netherlands-based Altice NV’s (ATCA.AS) acquisitions of Cablevision Systems Corp and Suddenlink Communications, considers cable growth a priority as it explores ways to enter the wireless business, company officials said.

Patrick Drahi, Franco-Israeli businessman and Executive Chairman of cable and mobile telecoms company Altice, speaks during the launch of the news channel BFM Paris, in Paris, France, November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

In April, Altice USA filed for an initial public offering that seeks to raise $1 billon to $2 billion, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Going public allows Altice’s founder, French billionaire Patrick Drahi, to expand his budding U.S. cable empire by giving Altice USA public stock it can use to finance more acquisitions.

Asked what U.S. assets he would look at, Drahi told reporters at a meeting on Tuesday that he considered cable expansion a priority, followed by mobile and content.

“We’re too small in cable to go into mobile at the moment.”

Altice is the fourth-biggest U.S. cable provider, with 4.9 million customers. It completed its $17.7 billion acquisition of Cablevision last June, after buying Suddenlink for $9.1 billion in 2015.

Altice has said it is considering ways to enter the wireless business as other cable providers prepare to offer mobile services.

“We are having discussions on lots of different types of alternatives out there,” Dexter Goei, chief executive of Altice USA, told reporters on Monday in remarks embargoed for Tuesday.

Earlier this month, cable providers Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) and Charter Communications Inc (CHTR.O) announced an agreement that would enable them to cut costs and share technology expertise to speed entry into the wireless business.

Comcast has launched its Xfinity Mobile service using Verizon Communications Inc’s (VZ.N) airwaves in hopes of boosting customer loyalty by bundling more offerings. Charter has said it would introduce its own service next year.

Goei called the partnership between the two companies “interesting and innovative,” adding, “we’re clearly not the types of people to sit back and watch.”

Asked whether his company would consider joining the Comcast-Charter alliance, he said, “I don’t think there is a necessity for us to join anything today.”

Altice USA’s parent company also said on Tuesday it planned to rebrand Optimum, formerly known as Cablevision, and Suddenlink, as well as most of the other businesses under its umbrella, as Altice by mid-2018.

Editing by Matthew Lewis and Richard Chang

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