French-Israeli Media Mogul Buys US Cable Company For $17.7B

Franco-Israeli media magnate Patrick Drahi’s telecoms giant Altice announced Thursday a $17.7 billion (€15.6 billion) takeover of the US cable operator Cablevision.

The agreement could accelerate the reshaping of the pay TV and broadband sector at a time when US consumers are increasingly “cutting the cord” on pricey traditional cable services and turning to streaming content providers such as Netflix and Hulu.

The European and US groups have entered a “definitive agreement” for the deal, creating the fourth largest cable operation in the US market, Altice said in a statement.

“The strategy of Altice in the large and highly strategic US market is reinforced with the acquisition of Cablevision,” Drahi said.

The takeover of Cablevision, which was created in 1973 and had remained under the control of the billionaire Dolan family, gives the Luxembourg-based Altice access to the lucrative New York market.

“As a family business, we are proud to be entrusted by the Dolan family with the ownership of Cablevision and look forward to continuing the pioneering path they have paved for us,” Drahi said.

The takeover is priced at $34.90 for each Cablevision share, well above the closing price on Wednesday of $28.54 a share.

Altice said it would finance the purchase with $3.3 billion of its own cash and $14.5 billion in new and existing debt at Cablevision.

Cablevision offers its Optimum digital cable television service in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

Big US ambitions

The company, based in New York state, had more than 15,000 employees as of end-2014.

Last year, it notched revenues of $6.46 billion and net income of $311 million.

Altice’s portfolio ranges from French cable and mobile operator Numericable-SFR to the French daily Liberation and the L’Express weekly news magazine, as well as the Israeli TV station i24 News and the Israeli cable television operator Hot.

It had already made a move into the US market in May when it bought 70 percent of Suddenlink Communications, the number seven US cable company, for $9.1 billion.

Drahi’s group is aiming to eventually generate half of its revenue in the United States, against the 15 percent estimated by year’s end.

Drahi is worth an estimated $14.9 billion, making him the richest person in both Israel and France as of August 2015, according to Forbes.

Sources in the banking industry say Drahi may have his sights on other media targets in the United States, including telecoms giant Verizon’s FiOS cable and Internet service, Cox Communications or Mediacom.

T-Mobile US, the American subsidiary of the German mobile phone company that is in search of a buyer, has contacted Drahi but there was no immediate follow-up, according to sources familiar with the conversations.

The two leaders of Altice, board president Drahi and chief executive officer Dexter Goei, were expected to take part in a huge telecoms conference in New York on Thursday. The group, which was founded in 2001, has 40,000 employees.

According to the financial website Globes, Drahi has purchased a home in Israel along with the entire 70-unit residential project in Tel Aviv’s trendy Neve Tzedek neighborhood for NIS 130 million ($33.6 million).

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