Cable Operators

Altrio Narrows Potential Buyers to One

2/19/2004 1:00 PM Eastern

Southern California overbuilder Altrio Communications Inc. may be sold by the end of this month, according to CEO David Rozzelle.

Earlier this month, Altrio received "five qualified offers" from companies that expressed interest in continuing to offer bundled services to its base in Pasadena, Calif. Those have been narrowed to one qualified buyer, Rozzelle said.

"We’re currently negotiating the fine points. It appears that it will result in a sale by the end of February," he added.

Rozzelle would not disclose how many customers the closely held company currently serves or the number of homes Altrio passes.

The company -- which delivers phone, Internet and video service -- ran out of money late last year and stopped adding new customers or building out its suburban franchises. In addition to Pasadena, the company has franchises to build in Arcadia, Monrovia, Temple City, Sierra Madre, Altadena and one franchise area in the city of Los Angeles.

Altrio launched the operation in 2002 with $180 million in venture capital in hopes of building a system passing 427,000 homes with a fiber-to-the-home architecture.

Rozzelle would not identify the potential buyer other than to say that it is not a "traditional" cable company like Altrio’s direct competitors. Altrio has overbuilt Charter Communications Inc. systems, and it has franchises to overbuild Adelphia Communications Corp. systems.

Asked if this would be a distressed sale, Rozzelle said, "There’s no question about that." But the offer would allow the company to continue to operate, serve its customers and build out, he added.

Should a buyer be selected, the new owner would have to receive transfer approval from the local franchisers.

March