NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Patrick Drahi's Altice will pay $17.7 billion including debt for Cablevision Systems (CVC) with a view to combining the business with Suddenlink Communications to become the No. 4 cable operator in the U.S.
Altice will pay $34.90 per share for New York-listed Cablevision, which offers services in the New York metropolitan area. The price is 22% more than Cablevision's Wednesday closing price of $28.54.
The deal values Cablevision at 9.5 times adjusted free cash flow of $1.86 billion for the year ending June, though Altice claimed the multiple would fall to 6.1 times including synergies from the merger with Suddenlink, which operates in the South and Central United States.
"The strategy of Altice in the large and highly strategic U.S. market is reinforced with the acquisition of Cablevision," Drahi said in a statement. "We will be in a stronger position...to deliver the best services, invest in the most advanced technology, and develop innovative products."
The deal continues a sweeping consolidation of the U.S. cable television sector. In July, AT&T (T - Get Report) , acquired Direct TV Group for $65 billion to leapfrog Comcast (CMCSA - Get Report) to become the largest pay-TV operator in the U.S. John Malone's Charter Communications (CHTR - Get Report) in Mayagreed to pay $78.7 billion including debt for Time Warner Cable (TWC) .
For Drahi, the acquisition of Cablevision continues a deal-fired ascension into the top ranks of global telecommunications and cable entrepreneurs. The French national, who has modeled Altice on Malone's Liberty Media (LMCA) , secured the No. 2 place in France's telecommunications market last year with the $19.3 billion acquisition of the SFR wireless-services business of Vivendi to create Numericable-SFR.
In the past six months, Drahi also tried and failed to buy Time Warner Cable and France's No. 3 telecommunication provider, Bouygues Telecom, a unit of Bouygues SA. He did, however, secure a foothold in the U.S. in May when Luxembourg-based Altice agreed to buy a 70% stake in Suddenlink Communications in a deal valuing America's No. 7 cable company at $9.1 billion. That transaction is slated to close in the fourth quarter.
The U.S. market will account for about 30% of Altice's total revenue of €22 billion ($24.9 billion) following the acquisitions of Cablevision and Suddenlink, making it the company's No. 2 market behind France. Altice's stable of assets stretches from the Caribbean to Israel.
Cablevision, based in Bethpage, N.Y., is controlled by the Dolan family, which holds about 72% of the company's voting rights through preferential shares carrying 10 votes each.
"The time is right for new ownership of Cablevision and its considerable assets," Cablevision CEO James L. Dolan said in a statement. The Dolan family will retain control of cable channel owner AMC Networks (AMCX - Get Report) and stadium operator and events organizer The Madison Square Garden Co.
Cablevision provides cable to about 3.1 million residences and businesses in and around New York. The deal announced on Wednesday also includes Cablevision's Lightpath businesses services unit and advertising unit Cablevision Media Sales, as well as loss-making local television news provider News 12 Networks, and newspaper publisher Newsday Media Group.
The combined operations generated sales of $6.53 billion in the 12 months ended June, and earnings of $1.8 billion, including about $147 million of losses from the media divisions.
Altice CEO Dexter Goei said that he had no intention of selling the news operations, hinting that they were part of a plan to extend Altice's business into content production. "We find these business very attractive," Goei said on a conference call with analysts. "We can learn from them."
Altice will fund the deal with $14.5 billion of new and previously arranged debt, cash on hand at Cablevision and $3.3 billion of cash. Cablevision will have about $14.4 billion of debt after the takeover closes, including $5.9 billion of debt already on its books and an additional $8.6 billion of new deal-related debt.
Drahi could receive backing for his transaction from private equity shop BC Partners Ltd. and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The two investors have been given an option to acquire up to 30% of Cablevision's equity as part of Altice's deal for the cable operator.
"We brought them [BC and CPP] into the fold recently and they are still doing their work on the deal," said Goei. "Initial indications are they will definitely take up their allocation."
Cablevision will retain an independent capital structure, though it will share management with Suddenlink.
Altice could sell as much as €2.9 billion of new class A shares to raise cash for the deal, though the amount will decrease if the financial investors take up their allocation. JPMorgan Chase & Co., BNP Paribas SA and Barclays plc have committed to provide debt for the transaction.
The deal is expected to close in first half of 2016. Fees associated with the deal are likely to amount to $200 million, according to Altice.
Altice's A shares, its most common stock class, traded Thursday at €24.29, down €0.04, or less than 1% on their Wednesday close, leaving the company with a market capitalization of about €24.3 billion ($27.5 billion).
Cablevision shares traded on the pre-market at $33.12, up $4.58, or 16%, on their Wednesday close.