Time Warner Cable has another suitor. Charter Communications, the nation's No. 3 cable operator, is putting together its own bid for TWC, the Wall Street Journal reported, renewing a pursuit that began before Comcast made its bid 16 months ago.
News of Charter's imminent bid came hours after Comcast formally dropped its $45 million bid for TWC, after determining that regulators had turned against the deal. If the deal had passed muster, Comcast would have controlled 57 percent of the U.S. broadband market and 30 percent of pay-TV homes.
Charter, backed by billionaire cable mogul John Malone, had a bid rebuffed by TWC before it accepted a bid from Comcast. After that deal fell apart, a renewed bid from Charter was considered inevitable. "Charter is one of the few buyers left in the market," Macquarie Securities analyst Amy Yong wrote in a research note, adding that she believes Charter would have to offer $150 to $160 a share to get a deal done.
TWC could also end up a buyer of either Bright House Networks or Cablevision Systems to fend off a renewed Charter bid.
Charter (5.9 million subscribers) and TWC (14 million) would create a cable behemoth to rival Comcast (23 million), assuming they weren't forced to divest subscribers to gain regulatory approval. Charter was already pursuing a $10 billion bid for Bright House Networks, a deal that was contingent on Comcast's closing on its deal with TWC. Now that the deal is dead, all bets are off.
Meantime, AT&T's bid for DirecTV, the one that has gotten little scrutiny given the Comcast-TWC drama, could close this summer, creating the largest pay-TV player in the country. The future of media is broadband and on that front Comcast will still have the edge, with 22 million subscribers to AT&T's 16.1 million.