Charter pushes ahead with bid to expand California footprint via Bright House purchase

20 May 2015 by Steve Blum
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Not dead yet.

Well, the deal lives. Charter Communications is still in the hunt to take over Bright House Networks. Reuters reported that the deal was off, following the crash of the Comcast-Time Warner-Charter mega-merger. But if anything was actually broken in the first place, it’s now been fixed, according to a press release from Charter

The companies remain committed to completing their previously announced transaction on the same economic and governance terms. The companies have extended their good faith negotiating period for an additional 30 days under the previously announced agreement for Charter to acquire Bright House Networks…for $10.4 billion. Bright House is the sixth largest cable operator in the United States, and serves approximately 2 million video customers in central Florida including Orlando and Tampa Bay, as well as Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, and California.

The Californian systems are in Kern County, not so far from Charter’s existing franchise areas in San Luis Obispo County. Assuming the companies get it all together in the next month, they’ll presumably have to ask the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to transfer control of Bright House’s regulated telephone business in the state, along with the associated certification.

I say “presumably” because you have to bet that Charter’s lawyers are trying to figure out if there’s a way to avoid getting tangled up in the CPUC’s review process again. Particularly if commissioners vote tomorrow to formally reject the defunct Comcast mega-merger and set a precedent for future reviews of cable and/or telco mergers on the basis of the effect on California’s broadband market. One way to do that might be to transfer the Bright House systems in states with more biddable regulators to Charter and leave the Californian rump to fend for itself.

On the other hand, if this transaction is just a prelude to a Charter bid to buy Time Warner, now that Comcast is out of the running, then there’s no avoiding a CPUC review – Time Warner’s southern California systems are among its crown jewels.