Allen Is 'Put' Off Again


Comcast Corp. and Paul Allen, chairman of Charter Communications Inc.. have agreed to extend negotiations regarding Allen's purchase of an interest in a joint cable venture, fueling speculation that a deal could be near.

Comcast has put rights for its stake in a Charter subsidiary, which it can compel Allen to buy for $725 million in cash. For months, Comcast and Allen have been negotiating a deal where Comcast would put the membership units to Allen and, in a simultaneous transaction, Allen would pay Charter $725 million for certain cable systems, and then transfer them to Comcast. It is expected that Charter will contribute systems in New England and Texas as part of the three-way deal.

Comcast has acknowledged that it is in negotiations with Allen regarding the put arrangement, and had extended the deal until May 30. During its "Analyst Day" meeting last month, Comcast said it was looking to do a deal that would be more tax efficient.

Last week Charter said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that both Comcast and Allen have informed the MSO that they have "postponed any closing of this transaction until June 2003."

News that the negotiations were ongoing gave a boost to Charter stock, which has more than doubled in value since April 24, when it traded at $1.45 per share. Charter shares were up 14 cents each (4.7%) on June 4 to $3.12 per share.