Charter-TWC Deal Said to Win Enough Votes to Clear U.S. FCC

  • Merger still needs approval from California regulator
  • Enlarged Charter would serve 24 million in 41 U.S. states

Charter Communications Inc.’s purchase of Time Warner Cable Inc. has won approval from a majority at the Federal Communications Commission, a person familiar with the vote said. The development leaves assent from California as the final regulatory hurdle for the $55.1 billion deal.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler last week publicly supported the deal, and it has since gained approval from two more members of the five-person FCC in voting conducted in private, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the result hasn’t been made public.

The FCC can publish results after remaining members vote. Late Thursday one made his decision: Ajit Pai, a Republican, cast his vote against the merger, said the person. Pai has criticized the FCC for imposing conditions upon other companies in return for permission to merge.

Shannon Gilson, a spokeswoman for the FCC, and Tamara Smith, a Washington-based spokeswoman for Charter, declined to comment.

Justice Department antitrust officials on April 25 cleared the deal, and Wheeler said he supported it. Together the agencies set restrictions designed to prevent Charter from interfering with online video that competes with cable channel entertainment packages.

The enlarged Charter would supplant Time Warner Cable as the second-largest U.S. cable operator, gaining 13 million customers in cities including New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. Charter would have about 24 million total customers in 41 states.

Charter last year agreed to acquire New York-based Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks LLC, a cable company based in Syracuse, New York, for $55.1 billion and $10.4 billion, respectively, according to prices at the time. The deal came together after top U.S. cable provider Comcast Corp.’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable collapsed amid opposition from regulators concerned over Comcast’s control of broadband.

California regulators are to vote on Charter’s merger May 12, and the deal could close within days of approval there, Charter Chief Executive Officer Tom Rutledge told investors April 28.

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