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From: Glenn Petersen11/2/2017 9:46:21 AM
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SoftBank ‘definitely’ in talks with Charter about merger

By Josh Kosman and Richard Morgan
New York Post
November 2, 2017

SoftBank Group in recent days has spoken to Charter Communications about a merger, a source close to the situation told The Post.

“They definitely are talking,” the source added.

The talks to merge with Charter, whose biggest shareholder is cable magnate John Malone, may not yet be advanced, the source said, adding that they did include high-level executives.

“Charter was reapproached by Masa at SoftBank,” a second source said, referring to Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s chief executive.

SoftBank-owned Sprint in recent days halted its merger talks with T-Mobile and is now considering other options, the source noted.

An internet and telecom company, SoftBank as recently as July made an offer to buy Charter, according to Bloomberg.

Charter rejected the offer, saying on July 30, “We understand why a deal is attractive for SoftBank, but Charter has no interest in acquiring Sprint. We have a very good [mobile] relationship with Verizon and intend to launch wireless services to cable customers next year.”

Charter, America’s No. 2 cable company, saw its shares close up 1.2 percent, to $338.22, on Wednesday.

On Sept. 12, at a Goldman Sachs conference, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge said he was focused on executing his strategy and not interested in selling the business.

However, Charter reported last week that it lost 105,000 subscribers in the third quarter. Its shares are down 17 percent from their 52-week high.

Meanwhile, Verizon, which roughly a year ago bid $350 to $400 a share for Charter, on Wednesday held its scheduled monthly board meeting.

Whether the topic of merging with Charter was raised during the meeting could not be learned.

While Rutledge has said he is not interested in selling, there has been plenty of consolidation in the pay-TV sector — and suitors are always circling.

To be sure, cable operator Altice could be interested in buying Charter, sources said.

Altice, the Europe-based cable operator that bought Cablevision in 2016, was in the “early stages,” of conversations to acquire Charter in August, sources told The Post.

“Keep in mind that the tax basis [Malone’s] Liberty has in its Charter positions are very low, thus for any deal to be considered, it would have to be for equity in something, not cash, to avoid any tax hit to Liberty,” a source familiar with the situation said.

Spokespersons at Charter, Verizon and Altice each declined to comment.

SoftBank did not return calls.
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