billionaire Paul Allen may not be the
Seal of Approval. But he ought to be, says the man in charge of his investment portfolio.
At a daylong investor meeting held by cable operator
, Bill Savoy -- a Charter board member and overseer of Allen's Microsoft-fueled fortune -- says the market isn't appropriately acknowledging Allen's stake in Charter.
Savoy's comments offer a variation on the oft-repeated opinion of many cable TV insiders that the market is overreacting to industrywide concerns in the sector, in part because of the blowup of
, the operator that filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year.
Cable stocks have tanked this year, as investors continue to worry that operators' high debt and heavy capital expenditures threaten their ability to generate free cash flow. Meanwhile, companies such as Charter argue that their capital expenditures will drop significantly in coming years, and that this drop will yield profitable new business lines.
Declining to elaborate on Allen's previously disclosed contemplation of additional investments in Charter, Savoy lamented that the company's assets are being valued at less than their replacement value, and that Allen's desire and ability to support the company aren't taken into account.
"The debt, in particular, is priced at a level that presumes that Paul Allen is not a majority shareholder of the company," Savoy said during a question-and-answer session at the meeting, which was broadcast over the Internet. "I feel the equity and debt markets have failed to consider the sponsorship this company has."
Savoy also said that financial liquidity wasn't a problem for Allen, who liquidated $4.5 billion of his technology investment portfolio in early 2000 and who later that year hedged two-thirds of his Microsoft stock holdings. "We have billions of dollars in the bank that could be used for transactions," Savoy said. "I've never lost a night of sleep over our cash reserves."
While Allen hasn't wavered from his vision of a what he calls a "wired world," Savoy says it's apparent that new technology has diminished the value of certain intellectual property. For example, he said, prospects for aspiring musicians are certainly "less interesting" than they were 20 years ago, movie producers are challenged, and advertising rates will arguably fall because of the proliferation of entertainment experience vehicles. Savoy, who says Allen hasn't made private company investments since mid-2000, says he and Allen are looking for investment opportunities where technology's benefits "don't undermine the core value ... of what's being consumed."
Charter's shares, down 86% from their 52-week high, traded at $3.05 Wednesday afternoon, up 7 cents.