Updated from 3:52 p.m. EDT
soared as much as 60% on Tuesday afternoon after the president of
, Brian Roberts, said he would be interested in buying
voting control in the provider of high-speed Internet access.
Excite@Home was quick to say that no formal offers have been made, and the stock retreated from its highs of the day. "Comcast has not issued a bid, but we are thrilled with the endorsement," said Melissa Walia, a spokeswoman for Excite@Home.
But a person close to Comcast said that Roberts' statements were taken out of context. "They were made in a joking and flippant manner. It was much ado about nothing."
AT&T Broadband & Internet
, a subsidiary of AT&T, owns 25% of Excite@Home and has a 56% voting interest, while Comcast and
both hold an 8% stake. In an agreement struck in March, AT&T agreed to give Comcast and Cox the right to sell the 60 million shares owned by both companies for a minimum price of $48 a share, or about $3 billion, between Jan. 1, 2001 and June 4, 2002. AT&T would also increase its voting interest to 74%.
National Cable Television Association's
annual meeting in New Orleans, Roberts said he would be willing to "flip" that deal.
Shares of Excite@Home ended Tuesday trading at 19 15/16, up 2 1/4 or 13%, after trading as high as 28.
A call to AT&T Broadband and Internet was not immediately returned. The AT&T unit is the No. 2 cable operator in the U.S. and will top
for the No. 1 spot after its pending acquisition of
Excite@Home has contracted to provide both Cox and Comcast with Internet access on a nonexclusive basis through 2006.