Acquisitive European cable-to-mobile player Altice – fresh from an agreement to purchase US-based Cablevision Systems for $17.7 billion – is planning a break from takeovers as it focuses on cutting costs and integrating cable systems, Bloomberg reported.
In an interview, Altice CEO Dexter Goei said “we owe it to our investors, both on the debt and equity side, to pause on the pace of the acquisitions, particularly on the sizable ones.”
“We may pause for two years because we still have a huge amount of organic growth internally,” he added.
Altice, which has built up a significant European cable-to-mobile business, wants to work towards managing costs and building up its cash supply to pay down debt next year.
“We are in that phase where the acceleration of our free cash flow growth is continuing and we can see ourselves deleveraging very aggressively in 2016,” said Goei.
However, there is one company for which Altice would make an exception: “The only thing that would make us scratch our heads is if Cox came up and said ‘I’m going to auction my business.’”.
Cox is the number four cable provider in the US, and is family-controlled. Its spokesman Todd Smith said that “we’ve been clear about our position that we are not for sale, though we are open to anything that would help us grow.”
Combining Cablevision with Suddenlink, recently acquired by Altice for $9.1 billion, will make the fourth largest cable operator in the US.
If Altice’s ultimate aim is to be among the top three US cable providers, Cox can get them there, the Bloomberg report noted.
What’s more, billionaire Patrick Drahi, who has a majority stake in the company, said soon after the Cablevision deal that Altice would buy more cable providers and maybe even a wireless carrier as the company appears to be on a campaign to consolidate the industry into three or four major cable providers.
Acquiring Cablevision rebalances Altice’s revenue mix 70-30 in favour of fixed vs mobile, following previous purchases of France’s SFR and PT Portugal which had skewed it more towards the mobile business.
The decision to halt acquisitions may mean Altice does not have any more mobile deals up its sleeve in Europe, or the US.