By Liana B. Baker
Feb 28 Charter Communications would consider
buying subscribers that Comcast could divest as part of its
proposed Time Warner Cable takeover, Greg Maffei, chief
executive of Charter's largest stakeholder, Liberty Media, said
These were Liberty Media's first comments since Charter
Communications, in which it has a 27 stake, lost out on
acquiring Time Warner Cable to Comcast. Although
Comcast, the top U.S. cable operator, had always been intrigued
by the idea of buying Time Warner Cable, a deal was not on its
list of priorities until Charter put it in play last summer.
Maffei told a conference call that Charter could still go
after Time Warner Cable if regulators reject the Comcast deal,
although he expects it to win approval, though perhaps with
Maffei said he thinks the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal
will ultimately be approved by regulators but said if the deal
were to fall through, Liberty and Charter Communications
are leaving the option on the table of acquiring Time
Maffei said he wants Liberty and Charter to be "flexible
both for acquisitions of other systems or potentially the
divestitures out of Time Warner or if the Time Warner deal is
not able to be completed -- looking back at the whole thing," he
Comcast has said it is willing to divest 3 million
While Charter, driven by Liberty Media, missed out on
acquiring Time Warner Cable, Maffei did not rule out further
"We certainly learned in this process that there were many
investors who are interested in investing in cable consolidation
either with Charter or alongside Liberty. And I suspect if a
need arises for additional equity for a cable consolidation
play, we'll see a lot of interest," he said.
Liberty last month offered to buy out Sirius XM's minority
shareholders in a deal that could be worth more than $10
billion. The deal would make the entire asset part of Liberty's
portfolio and take the public shares off the market.
Liberty currently owns more than half of Sirius XM.
Shareholders such as consumer advocate Ralph Nader have
spoken out against the deal, an offer of $3.68 per share that
provides little premium to shareholders. Sirius XM shares were
trading at $3.62 per share on Friday.
Liberty said it still wants to go through with the deal and
use Sirius XM's cash for share repurchase or strategic
Maffei said Liberty was in touch with Sirius XM's special
committee, which is studying the offer. While he suggested there
could be a bit of room for Sirius XM's committee to negotiate a
higher price, he said that a deal does not have to get done and
in terms of price, "there certainly are limits to what would be
Maxim Securities analyst John Tinker said that Maffei is in
full negotiating mode and "is very clear that at a certain price
they don't need to do the deal."