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Comcast, TWC deflate consolidation hopes

Wed, 09/25/2013 - 1:04pm
Brian Santo

Comcast doesn’t appear to have any specific plans to get involved should the cable industry engage in a new round of consolidation, according to its CFO. His opposite number at Time Warner Cable reiterated what that company’s been saying all along about getting involved in consolidation: only if it makes financial sense.

After becoming a major investor in Charter Communications earlier this year, Liberty Media’s John Malone repeatedly brought up the subject of the benefits of consolidation, driving Wall Street into a tizzy, and forcing several possible acquirers and possible acquisition targets – a pool that includes TWC, Charter, Cablevision and Cox Communications – to answer endless questions about the subject.

And the questions of course came up at the Goldman Sachs 22nd Annual Communacopia Conference.  

Comcast vice chairman and CFO Michael Angelakis said Comcast is in a position where there’s little compelling reason to get involved in further consolidation. It would be a financial consideration only, he said.

“I think from our standpoint, a lot of the conversation has been about scale and the benefits of scale. We're already at 22 million video customers. We actually think we have meaningful scale on the distribution side and we also think we have meaningful scale on the content side. We don’t particularly believe that having a couple million more customers to our footprint is going to change dynamics around content costs.”

Angelakis immediately followed that by noting: “By the way on the technology side, we want to be collaborative with other cable operators on a whole variety of different services.”

The implication being that it’s possible for the cable industry to gain some of the benefits of scale simply by converging on a set of common technologies.

Far more than Comcast, TWC has been considered by Wall Street to be a likely candidate for participating in a merger deal. On that subject, TWC EVP and CFO Arthur Minson said what TWC has been saying all along: the company has little financial incentive to get involved in a deal at the moment.

When pressed on the subject, Minson added, “this is about my fifteenth year in the industry and people are still talking about deals, the same deals in the industry as when I first joined. So it’s hard to predict what will happen. What I would say is we don’t feel any need to get bigger. We are actually really just focused on operating the company as efficiently as possible.

“And if there are deals and there are transactions, I think what we've proved over the last number of years and M&A’s we will be really disciplined about it,” Minson continued. “We’ve looked at a lot of things. Insight was the one big deal we’ve done where we really were able to say, okay on a returns basis, can we actually do better for our shareholders in buying back our own stock and that’s a high hurdle for us to clear and so whatever we do we will be very disciplined about it.”

Quotes were provided by the transcripts of the conference provided by Seeking Alpha.

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