Whoever said talk was cheap hasn't been following the action at Cablevision: Shares of the Long Island-based cable operators have staged a strong rally in recent months, courtesy of the Dolan family's jib-jabbing and jawboning alone. But don't expect the fun to continue says Citi analyst Jason Bazinet, who downgraded the stock today. Despite the fact that activist Harbinger has taken an 8.1 percent stake in the company, class A shareholders (non-Dolans) don't have the muscle to force anything, like an asset sale. Even though the top non-Dolan shareholders are consolidating their grip (besides Harbinger, top firms like Gamco and Clearbride have added to their stake), the Dolan's control of the Class B shares ensures that they'll retain 73 percent of the voting power.
What's more, even if investors could make something happen, Bazinet doesn't believe there's any more value to "unlock" via a sale or a spinoff (again, the stock has made its run). He estimates the value of the cable nets at $5 billion if sold on the private market. As for the core cable operation, the company is now valued at a slight premium to its peers, but it faces a threat from Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) much-hyped rollout of FiOS in New York. Bazinet thinks the current valuation isn't pricing in any risk whatsoever.
Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) is taking it on the chin today, dropping about 4.5 percent.
By Joseph Weisenthal