Cablevision agrees to $17.7B takeover offer

NEW YORK -- European telecommunications and cable company Altice has agreed to buy New York cable operator Cablevision for $17.7 billion, including debt.

Altice announced the deal Thursday morning before European financial markets opened, and Cablevision said the family-controlled company decided that "the time is right for new ownership of Cablevision."

The move is part of Netherlands-based Altice's aggressive expansion in the U.S. It announced a $9.1 billion deal for Suddenlink, a smaller cable company based in St. Louis, in May.

Shares of Cablevision Systems Corp. jumped 16 percent to $33.12 in after-hours trading Wednesday.

Altice said the deal will be financed with $14.5 billion of debt at Cablevision plus cash from both companies. Altice said it hopes to complete the deal in the first half of next year, though it remains subject to regulatory approval.

The New York Times points out that the deal could "draw significant concerns" from regulators, "particularly as control of the telecom market shrinks to fewer and fewer players."

U.S. cable companies have been in a merger frenzy over the past few years as people increasingly drop their TV packages and watch video online from competitors like Netflix, while cable companies' costs for sports and other channels rise.

"The transaction would further realign an industry already in upheaval as cable and telecom companies seek greater scale and negotiating power with content providers," the Times says.

Charter Communications, backed by cable pioneer John Malone, is trying to buy Time Warner Cable and Bright House for $67.1 billion. That comes after Comcast walked away from a combination with Time Warner Cable because of regulatory pushback. AT&T recently closed on a $48.5 billion purchase of satellite TV company DirecTV.

Altice SA, controlled by founder Patrick Drahi, has expanded from a small regional Internet and cable provider in France's Alsace region to making an $18.5 billion acquisition last year of France's No. 2 mobile phone operator, SFR. Earlier this year, Altice bought Portugal Telecom for $8.4 billion. It also has operations in Belgium, Switzerland, Israel and elsewhere.

Altice CEO Dexter Goei has said that the company is aiming for half of its portfolio to be U.S. business.