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时代华纳有线有线锺意康卡斯特已久

更新时间:2014-2-14 22:26:42 来源:华尔街日报中文网 作者:佚名

TWC Long Viewed Comcast as Preferred Partner
时代华纳有线有线锺意康卡斯特已久

Comcast Corp. agreed to buy Time Warner Cable for about $45.2 billion in stock, in a deal that would combine the nation's two biggest cable operators.

By negotiating the deal, Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts ensures his dominance of the U.S. cable industry will be maintained. But the transaction is expected to face a lengthy regulatory review.

With the proposed deal, Comcast almost certainly ends an eight-month takeover battle for Time Warner Cable waged by fourth-largest cable operator Charter Communications Inc. CHTR -6.29% and its biggest shareholder, Liberty Media Corp. LMCA +0.29% , whose chairman is cable pioneer John Malone.

Charter's pursuit of Time Warner Cable, which began after Liberty bought a 27% stake in Charter about a year ago, had raised the possibility that Mr. Malone would emerge as a rival to Mr. Roberts. Mr. Malone once led the U.S. cable industry but sold his previous cable firm, Tele-Communications Inc., to AT&T T +1.67% in 1999.

Charter has made three offers, the most recent of which was valued at $132.50, all of which were rejected by Time Warner Cable as too low. Time Warner Cable Chief Executive Rob Marcus had said Time Warner Cable wanted $160 a share.

Charter is unlikely to counterbid for Time Warner Cable, people familiar with the matter said, given the price gap between its bid and Comcast's. Charter also is likely to look at other suitors, said people familiar with the company's thinking.

Time Warner Cable had long seen Comcast as a preferred partner. Last year, Time Warner Cable approached Comcast about a deal, hoping to ward off Charter. The two companies had talks off and on. But until a week ago there were signs that Comcast was leaning toward striking a deal with Charter instead.

Comcast and Charter were in talks about a deal in which Comcast would endorse Charter's bid in exchange for an agreement where it would buy some Time Warner Cable systems on the East Coast from Charter, if Charter were successful in buying Time Warner Cable.

But last Tuesday Comcast and Time Warner Cable re-initiated talks, when Mr. Roberts reached out to Time Warner Cable's Mr. Marcus, one of the people said. Comcast was very uncomfortable with the idea of a proxy fight that Charter was gearing up to wage, another of the people said.

Time Warner Cable, in turn, was uncomfortable with the amount of debt Charter would have layered onto the company had it succeeded in buying it, one of the people said. Combined with Comcast, Time Warner Cable would have much more conservative leverage ratios than it would have, had Charter succeeded.

Comcast approached Time Warner Cable last week with an offer to buy the entire company at about $150 a share, a person familiar with the matter said. As the offer was much closer to the $160 a share Time Warner Cable was looking for, it sparked the renewed talks. Comcast's Mr. Roberts at times negotiated with top Time Warner Cable brass, including Mr. Marcus and Chief Financial Officer Artie Minson on the phone from Sochi, where Mr. Roberts has been visiting for the Winter Olympics.

On Wednesday evening, Time Warner Cable's board met around 5 p.m. to discuss the deal, around the same time Comcast's board was meeting. By about 8 p.m., the boards had approved the deal. Mr. Roberts said a deal document was signed at about 1:30 a.m. Thursday.

'The last week was a real flurry,' he told reporters Thursday.

In the deal, Time Warner Cable shareholders will swap each share for 2.875 Comcast shares, valuing the company at $158.82 per share, based on Comcast's closing price Wednesday. Time Warner Cable shareholders will own about 23% of the combined entity.

The boards of both companies have approved the transaction. The combined cable operations will be led by Comcast President and CEO Neil Smit, and Comcast expects the deal to add to earnings in the first year it is completed.

The companies said they expected to generate about $1.5 billion in operating efficiencies from the tie-up. Comcast Chief Financial Officer Michael Angelakis said during a call with reporters Thursday that the efficiencies will be spread out in a variety of areas, but a 'minority' amount will come from programming savings.

The companies expect to capture half of those savings in the first 12 months after the transaction, and the remaining savings should come in the following two years, he said.
Comcast also said it is going to expand its buyback program by an additional $10 billion at the close of the transaction, which is expected at the end of 2014.

To reduce competitive concerns, Comcast is prepared to divest systems serving about 3 million managed subscribers and will, through the acquisition and management of Time Warner Cable systems, net about 8 million managed subscribers in this transaction.

News of the deal comes just a couple of days after Charter ratcheted up the pressure on Time Warner Cable by nominating a group of 13 people as candidates for Time Warner Cable's board, ahead of this spring's annual meeting.

In a statement late Wednesday, Charter said it 'has always maintained that our greatest opportunity to create value for our shareholders is by executing our current business plan, and that we will continue to be disciplined in this and any other M&A activity we pursue.'

The deal faces high regulatory barriers. Comcast not only serves more pay-TV customers than any other company in the U.S., nearly 22 million video subscribers, but it also owns the entertainment company NBCUniversal, parent of the NBC broadcast network and several big cable channels as well as Universal film studio.

Time Warner Cable serves about 11 million video subscribers. Comcast is prepared to divest three million subscribers, the people said. Those divestitures will keep its ownership of the pay TV market below 30%, the people said.

Comcast hopes to convince regulators that because cable companies don't compete, their deal should go through.

'We believe that this transaction is approvable. It is proconsumer, procompetitive and strongly in the public interest,' Mr. Roberts said on a conference call. 'It will not reduce competition in any relevant market because our companies do not overlap or compete with each other.' The companies added that the deal does not include a breakup fee, should the acquisition not close.

Any bid for Time Warner Cable would have to be approved by both the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, which hasn't been shy about bringing antitrust enforcement actions against would-be mergers that it believes will harm competition. Last year, the department's antitrust chief, Bill Baer, challenged major mergers in the beer and airline industries, though both cases ultimately settled and the deals were allowed to proceed after the companies made several concessions.

However, recent events may give Comcast a better shot at securing regulatory approval.

Purchasing Time Warner would give Comcast roughly a third of the national cable market, raising concerns over whether the combined company would have too much leverage over content providers in negotiations. However, the deal may benefit from the perception of some regulators that cable is a natural monopoly whose primary competition comes from satellite providers and telephone companies like Verizon Communications Inc. VZ -0.13% and AT&T Inc. The FCC previously tried to impose a 30% horizontal ownership cap on the cable industry, but the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out that limit in 2009.

Since then the commission approved Comcast's purchase of NBCUniversal, giving it a strong foothold in the content industry and control over one of the four broadcast networks. Comcast agreed to a wide range of conditions as part of that deal, including a promise not to discriminate against third-party content traveling over its networks for seven years. Having recently lost a court challenge to its Open Internet rules, the FCC could force Comcast to agree to extend its net neutrality agreement as part of any review.

康卡斯特(Comcast Corp.)同意通过换股方式以约452亿美元收购时代华纳有线(Time Warner Cable),从而将使美国排名前两位的有线电视运营商合而为一。

通过商谈这一交易,康卡斯特首席执行长布莱恩•罗伯茨(Brian Roberts)能确保公司在美国有线电视行业的统治地位。不过该交易预计将面临漫长的监管审批。

提出上述收购报价后,围绕时代华纳有线长达8个月的竞购战几乎肯定将宣告结束。康卡斯特的竞争对手是美国第四大有线电视运营商Charter Communications Inc.。Charter最大股东为Liberty Media Corp.,后者的董事长是有线电视业先驱者约翰•马隆(John Malone)。

Charter对时代华纳有线的追逐始于约一年前Liberty购得Charter 27%的股权后。马隆曾是美国有线电视领域的领军人物,但在1999年向美国电话电报公司(AT&T T)出售了其当时拥有的有线电视企业Tele-Communications Inc.。

Charter曾向时代华纳有线提出过三次报价,最近一次对后者的估值为每股132.50美元。这三次出价都被时代华纳有线以金额过低而拒绝。时代华纳有线首席执行长罗布•马库斯(Rob Marcus)曾表示,公司希望看到的价格是每股160美元。

知情人士表示,考虑到自身出价与康卡斯特报价差距显著,Charter不太可能再提出竞争性报价。知情人士还称,Charter可能考虑其他潜在目标。

时代华纳有线很久之前就将康卡斯特视为优先考虑的合作伙伴。去年,时代华纳有线曾接洽康卡斯特,希望与后者达成一项交易,以使Charter知难而退。两家公司断断续续进行了一些商谈。但直到上周还有迹象显示,康卡斯塔倾向于转而与Charter达成一项交易。

康卡斯特和Charter此前商谈的内容是,康卡斯特将为Charter收购时代华纳有线提供支持,条件是一旦交易成功,Charter把时代华纳有线在东海岸地区的一些系统出售给康卡斯特。

不过,知情人士表示,康卡斯特首席执行长罗伯茨上周二与时代华纳有线首席执行长马库斯碰面,两家公司重启了谈判。另一名人士称,康卡斯特对于Charter打算发起一场委托书之争的想法非常不满。

一名知情人士称,时代华纳有线对于一旦被Charter收购所将背负的债务规模也感到不安。相比于和Charter合并,如果被康卡斯特收购,时代华纳有线的杠杆比率将低得多。

一名了解情况的人士透露,康卡斯特上周接触了时代华纳有线,提出以每股大约150美元的价格将后者全盘收购。这一出价与时代华纳有线的心理价位160美元比较接近,因此谈判再度展开。在此之后,罗伯茨在索契观看冬奥会期间不时通过手机与时代华纳有线的马库斯和首席财务长阿蒂•曼森(Artie Minson)进行商谈。

时代华纳有线董事会周三下午五点左右举行了一次会议,讨论被康卡斯特收购事宜。与此几乎相同的时间,康特斯特董事会也在举行会议。到下午八点,两家公司的董事会均批准了交易。罗伯茨称,交易文件在周四上午1:30左右签署。

罗伯茨周四表示,过去的一周可谓相当紧张忙碌。

根据该交易,时代华纳有线股东每持有1股股票可以交换2.875股康卡斯特的股票。根据康卡斯特周三的收盘价,该交易对时代华纳有线的估值为每股158.82美元。时代华纳有线股东将持有合并后公司约23%的股权。

合并后的公司将由康卡斯特总裁尼尔•斯密特(Neil Smit)领导。康卡斯特预计交易完成后,第一年的收益将增加。

两家公司称,预计合并将产生约15亿美元的营运效益。康卡斯特首席财务长迈克尔•安吉拉基斯(Michael Angelakis)周四在与媒体召开的电话会议上说,营运效益将体现在多个方面,但在节目制作成本方面产生的效益不大。

他称,一半的成本节约效益将在双方合并后的头12个月中显现,余下一半效益将在之后的两年里体现出来。

康卡斯特还表示,打算在交易完成后将其股票回购计划的规模扩大100亿美元,预计合并交易将在2014年年底完成。

为了设法消除竞争担忧,康卡斯特准备剥离约300万用户,因此通过收购和管理时代华纳有线净增的用户量将为约800万。

就在这桩交易达成的几天前,Charter加大了对时代华纳有线的施压力度,在春季年度股东会议临近之际提名了13位董事人选。

Charter在周三晚间发布的一份声明中称,他们坚持认为,为股东创造价值的最佳机会是通过执行现行的商业计划来实现的,在此次交易以及所追求的任何其他并购交易中,也将秉持这一原则。

该交易面临较大的监管障碍。康卡斯特在美国拥有近2,200万视频用户,其付费电视用户的数量比其他任何一家有线电视公司都要多,不仅如此,它旗下还拥有娱乐公司NBCUniversal,后者的资产包括NBC广播网、几个大的有线电视频道以及环球电影制片公司。时代华纳有线在美国拥有约1,100万视频用户。知情人士称,康卡斯特准备剥离约300万用户,采取这些剥离措施后它在美国付费电视市场的份额将降至30%以下。

康卡斯特希望让监管部门相信:有线电视公司之间不存在竞争,所以合并交易应该获得批准。

罗伯茨在一个电话会议上说,他们相信这次交易可以获得批准,它有利于消费者、有利于竞争,也符合公众的利益。该交易不会降低任何相关市场的竞争,因为两家公司的业务没有重叠,也不存在相互竞争。两家公司还说,此次交易不含解约费。

无论是哪家公司收购时代华纳有线,都必须得到联邦通讯委员会(Federal Communications Commission, 简称FCC)和美国司法部的批准。司法部向来不避讳针对其认为可能损害行业竞争的并购交易采取反垄断执法行动。去年,司法部反垄断事务主管比尔•贝尔(Bill Baer)就对啤酒和航空行业的大型并购交易提出了挑战,在相关公司作出一系列让步后,并购交易最终才获得放行。

不过,近几年的一些事件可能会加大这桩交易获得监管部门批准的可能性。

康卡斯特将通过收购时代华纳有线获得全美约三分之一的有线电视市场,这不禁让外界担心合并后的公司是否在节目供应谈判中拥有太多的话语权。不过一些监管部门认为有线电视是一个天然垄断行业,其主要竞争来自卫星业务供应商和像Verizon Communications Inc.、美国电话电报公司(AT&T Inc.)这样的电信公司。这种观点可能对这桩并购交易有利。FCC曾试图为单个有线电视公司设置30%的市场份额上限,但华盛顿特区巡回上诉法庭在2009年否决了这项限制。

在那之后,FCC批准了康卡斯特收购NBCUniversal的交易,使其在电视内容行业站稳了脚跟,并掌控了美国四大广播网络之一。当时,康卡斯特同意在交易中附加一系列条件,其中包括承诺在未来七年内不排斥在其网络中播放第三方节目。鉴于美国法院最近推翻了FCC的“网络中立”规则,FCC可能会强迫康卡斯特同意延长其网络中立协议,作为交易获批的条件之一。

本文版权归道琼斯公司所有,未经许可不得翻译或转载。

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