Comcast executive vice president David Cohen said in a blog posting Wednesday that the cable giant believes Federal Communications Commission approval of its pending merger with Time Warner Cable won’t come until mid-year, which could delay the closing of the $67 billion deal yet again.
The FCC stopped the 180-day approval shot clock on the Comcert-TWC deal and another major transaction (AT&T and DirecTV) on March 13, to give a federal appeals court time to rule on a challenge to protective orders related to the review of the mergers. Comcast had originally expected the TWC deal to close by the end of 2014 and later amended that to about a year after it first announced the transaction on Feb. 13, 2014. In August the company said that it expected to close the deal in early 2015, which some observers had estimated would be sometime in the first quarter. With the first quarter nearing its close – it ends on March 31 – Comcast obviously won’t be able to make that date.
Cohen’s blog post mainly concentrated on a recent speech he made to students and faculty at the Center for Media Law and Policy of the University of North Carolina. North Carolina will become a new state for Comcast after the TWC deal closes. Cohen’s speech examined the democratization of media and the rapid pace of change in the business. While the post also talked about Comcast’s initiatives to bring affordable broadband to communities, Cohen commented on the deal approval process.
“The FCC and the DOJ are continuing their regulatory reviews of the TWC transaction,” Cohen wrote in the post. “Given the FCC's recent decision to pause the shot clock, we have recently reassessed the time frame when we expect the government's regulatory review to be completed and now expect that the review should be concluded in the middle of the year. During this period, we are continuing to describe the public interest benefits that will come to North Carolina and other TWC areas.”
Despite the delay some analysts have expressed doubt that the merger will receive FCC approval and others have reduced the odds that the transaction will be completed to about 50-50.
In January Comcast extended the end date for the merger by six months to August 12, after it was evident that the deal wouldn’t be closed by the original February end date. If the FCC rules favorably on the deal by mid-year, it is expected that it would close within two weeks or so of receiving approval. That is about the same time frame it took Comcast’s last major acquisition – its deal for a majority of NBC Universal – to close after receiving the regulatory nod.