In a Memorandum Opinion and Order issued last Friday, the FCC approved plans by Altice to acquire control of Suddenlink in a deal that gives the fast rising European telecommunications conglomerate its first-ever foothold in the U.S. cable market. Announced in May, the $9.1 billion transaction provides Altice with a 70% stake in St. Louis-based Suddenlink, which ranks as the seventh-largest cable operator in the U.S. with more than 1.5 million business and residential customers. Through its Numericable-SFR division, Altice ranks as one of the strongest competitors against Orange in the French market with 22.5 million mobile telephony and 6.5 million wireline service customers. Altice also boasts telecommunications and cable assets in Israel, the Caribbean region and in other western European nations that include Belgium, Portugal and Switzerland. Contingent upon FCC consent to its pending purchase of Cablevision through a separate, $17.7 billion transaction announced in September, Altice stands poised to assume the rank of the fourth-largest multichannel video program distributor (MVPD) in the U.S. with a service footprint spanning the Northeast, South and Midwest.
Emphasizing that the deal does not reduce the number of competitors in the U.S. MVPD sector, the FCC concluded that a grant of the parties’ application for transfer of control “serves the public interest” and “is unlikely to result in any significant public interest harms.” The FCC also pointed to Altice’s “demonstrated track record” of improving the broadband offerings of the companies it acquires as a key factor weighing in favor of merger approval, predicting that the transaction “is likely to result in some public interest benefits of increased investment in local network facilities and broadband services in Suddenlink’s service territory.”
The U.S. Justice Department announced its consent to the transaction on December 11. With all required approvals in hand, officials of Altice and Suddenlink confirmed that the merger had been consummated as of Monday. Altice, meanwhile, expects to complete its acquisition of Cablevision by June 2016, subject to FCC and other required regulatory approvals. As he congratulated Altice and Suddenlink “for completing their transaction” and welcomed Altice “to the U.S. cable industry,” National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Michael Powell told reporters: “we. . . look forward to working with a new company that can offer fresh insight and perspective.”