Cox Said to Be Mulling Time Warner Cable Deal, Joining Fray

Cox Communications Inc., the third-largest U.S. cable-television provider, is considering a bid for Time Warner Cable Inc., joining a growing field of prospective bidders, a person with knowledge of the deliberations said.

Discussions on a deal, which could take the form of a merger or outright acquisition, are in the early stages, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. Todd Smith, a spokesman for Atlanta-based Cox, declined to comment, as did Bobby Amirshahi, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable in New York.

Time Warner Cable, the second-largest U.S. cable company, has emerged a takeover target for an industry increasingly keen on consolidation. Charter Communications Inc., backed by billionaire John Malone, is in talks with bankers about raising funds for a bid, people familiar with the matter have said. Comcast Corp., the industry leader, also has contemplated a Time Warner Cable deal, either alone or with Charter’s help, according to people with knowledge of that company.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal said today that Charter is seeking to arrange $25 billion in debt financing to be able to make a cash-and-stock offer that would include about $90 a share in cash. Takeover speculation has fueled a 41 percent gain in Time Warner Cable shares this year. The stock was little changed at $136.80 at the close in New York.

Breakup Scenario

As part of the merger discussions, Comcast and Charter are contemplating a breakup of Time Warner Cable as a way to make a deal more palatable to regulators, people familiar with the situation said last week. The move would resemble the joint purchase of Adelphia Communications Corp. by Comcast and Time Warner, which split up the company between them in 2006.

Charter has also been in discussions with banks such as Barclays Plc, Bank of America Corp. and Deutsche Bank AG to borrow funds for a solo acquisition, people said last week. Without a partner, Charter would be bidding on a much bigger rival: Time Warner Cable has an enterprise value of $62 billion, compared with about $28 billion for Charter. Comcast’s is $171 billion.

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