Comcast is apparently ready to throw in the towel on its $67 billion merger with Time Warner Cable, concluding what has been a grueling 14-month approval process.
Bloomberg News was the first to report Comcast’s decision, adding that an official announcement could come as early as Friday. The New York Times and CNBC also issued reports Thursday confirming that Comcast is stepping away from the deal.
If Comcast decides to abandon the merger, it will mark the end of what has been a whirlwind week for the companies involved – on April 17 reports surfaced that the Department of Justice was leaning away from approving the merger while last night sources said the Federal Communications Commission was considering putting the matter to a hearing before an administrative law judge, which would send a signal that the agency did not believe the deal would be in the public interest.
With Comcast out of the merger picture, it paves the way for Charter Communications to make an offer for TWC. Just how much Charter will offer and when still remains to be seen.
Charter touched off the recent merger mania in 2013 when it began its pursuit of TWC, eventually making a bid valued at $135 per share for the company. Time Warner Cable rejected that bid and Charter’s continued aggressive pursuit turned the company to Comcast, which made an all-stock bid of $158.82 per share that was accepted.
The stocks reacted tepidly to the news – Comcast was up 1% (61 cents each) to $59.37, Charter was down 0.6% ($1.06 each) to $183.83 and TWC was down 0.3% (39 cents) to $149.25 per share in afternoon trading Thursday.
Charter has made no bones about its desire for TWC, and though it has made several side deals with both companies contingent on the larger transaction being consummated (which will be scrapped as Comcast steps away), it is expected to make a bid for the second largest cable operator. But it could cost them more. According to MoffettNathanson principal and senior analyst Craig Moffett, TWC is in a better position today than it was when Charter made its initial pursuit and would likely fetch a higher price, possibly as much as $164 per share.