Time Warner/Comcast bid to snap up Adelphia cable service

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April 9, 2005

The fibre optic strands

A bid topping $17.7 billion was jointly proffered by Time Warner Inc. and Comcast Corporation on Thursday to buy beleaguered Adelphia Communications Corporation in an industry consolidation move. Adelphia is the fifth largest cable service provider in the United States with nearly 5 million subscribers.

The market-share grabbing bid trumps the previous Cablevision offer of $16.5 billion. The bid is under scrutiny by the presiding judge over the Adelphia’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, and must also be approved by the company’s creditors owed in the range of $20 million.

The acquisition race to gain dominance in the cable service provider market is driven by the high cost of installation and maintenance of cable lines. Fiber optic networks deliver traditional entertainment programming over a cable wire and is becoming increasingly popular for broadband internet content. The growing trust and recognition of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) suggests phone service subscribers will eventually migrate to cable voice communication as opposed to keeping with traditional copper land lines. Telephone company operators are scrambling to keep up.

The largest percentage of the bid would be put up by Time Warner (TW), who could gain by getting subscribers from the valuable Los Angeles market currently owned by Comcast and Adelphia. TW can also simultaneously divest itself of a stake owned by Comcast in TW by making a tax-free swap using some of the newly garnered Adelphia subscribers.

While the consolidation would likely get a look by the government with an eye towards a growing monopoly in the market, it would doubtfully be blocked considering the existence of competing technologies. Competition exists in the form of still numerous television by airwaves usage, satellite providers, radio content companies, and telecom providers.

Adelphia suffered a corporate scandal in 1992 with similarities to the WorldCom fall. Members of the Rigas family, founders of the company, were alleged to have siphoned off millions of dollars and hidden $2.3 billion leading to the bankruptcy filing. John Rigas and son Timothy were convicted July of 2004 and await sentencing.

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