(Reuters) - New York state regulators on Wednesday approved European telecom group Altice NV's ATCA.AS acquisition of Cablevision Systems Corp CVC.N, a $17.7 billion deal that would create the fourth-largest U.S. cable provider.
The unanimous approval by the New York State Public Service Commission with conditions means the Dutch company has cleared the final regulatory hurdle to complete the transaction announced in September.
Altice said it was pleased with the approval and expects to close the deal by the end of the month. Cablevision has 3.1 million subscribers, mostly in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Last month, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved the Altice acquisition of Cablevision, saying it was in the “public interest” and noted Altice had vowed to invest to upgrade Cablevision broadband.
New York regulators agreed to approve the deal if Altice agreed to pass 25 percent of the estimated $450 million in cost savings from the deal to subscribers over five years. The company is barred from laying off workers for four years in any customer-facing jobs in New York.
The sale includes other Cablevision assets including the News 12 programming networks; Newsday, a Long Island daily newspaper; amNewYork, a free daily serving New York City; and Star Community Publishing, a publisher of weekly shoppers and community papers on Long Island.
This is Altice’s second U.S. acquisition. In December, the FCC approved Altice’s $9.1 billion acquisition of U.S. regional cable company Suddenlink Communications, the seventh largest U.S. cable company, with about 1.5 million customers.
Altice founder Patrick Drahi, the French-Israeli billionaire who built a telecoms and cable empire via debt-fueled acquisitions in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal and Israel, said last year that Altice would look for more acquisitions.
In talks that began in June 2015, Drahi convinced Charles Dolan, patriarch of the Irish-American family that owns Cablevision, to sell.
The Dolans will continue to own media and sports assets through AMC Networks and the Madison Square Garden Co, owner of the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers and the National Basketball Association’s New York Knicks, which are not part of the deal.
The approval follows the completion of another major cable tie-up last month.
In May, Charter Communications Inc CHTR.O completed its $67 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc and Bright House Networks LLC, creating the second-largest U.S. broadband provider and third-largest pay TV provider.
Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Tom Brown
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