There's a billionaire buying US Cable MSO assets this month, and it isn't John Malone this time. The French group Altice SA, controlled by Patrick Drahi, jumped into the fray this morning with a deal to buy Suddenlink for $9.1B. Supposedly they have also been simultaneously kicking the tires over at TW Cable.
The failure of the Comcast/TWC deal last month has opened up the field of battle, but having the French swoop in and find the prices affordable is a bit surprising. It's also a bit of deja vu. When the rumors were flying over T-Mobile and Sprint last year after AT&T failed in its own quest, Iliad's Xavier Niel suddenly appeared on the scene for a few weeks as a surprise bidder.
Buying Suddenlink is one thing, but buying TW Cable as well would take Altice from zero to huge in the US market in one fell swoop. Whether they succeed in that I suppose all comes down to whether they're willing to meet TWC's price and beat Charter's. Regulators wouldn't bat an eye if they did. But Charter, with John Malone in the background, probably wouldn't go down without a fight. Coming in second again would really not be pleasant, I suspect.
On the other hand, I could see Malone and Drahi winding up on the same side of the fence here rather than driving up the price. Charter+Suddenlink+TWC owned jointly by Liberty Media and Altice, challenging Comcast? Hmmm...