Comcast Corp. is planning to walk away from its proposed $45.2-billion (U.S.) takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc., people with knowledge of the matter said, after meeting with opposition from U.S. regulators.
Comcast's board will meet to finalize the decision on Thursday, and an announcement may come as soon as Friday, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.
The cable giant had been facing growing resistance in Washington. This week, U.S. Federal Communications Commission staff joined lawyers at the Justice Department opposing the transaction. FCC officials told representatives of the two biggest U.S. cable companies on Wednesday they are leaning toward deciding the merger doesn't help consumers, one of the sources said. The FCC's move effectively killed chances of success for a deal that has been awaiting regulatory approval for more than a year. An FCC hearing can take months to complete and drag out the approval process beyond the companies' time frame for completion.
Comcast shares rose 0.8 per cent to $59.23 at the close in New York, while Time Warner Cable slid 0.6 per cent to $148.76.
Sena Fitzmaurice, a spokeswoman for Comcast, declined to comment, as did Bobby Amirshahi, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable.
As recently as yesterday, Comcast lobbyists were making a last-ditch effort to save the deal, which would have created a cable and Internet juggernaut serving 57 per cent of U.S. homes that receive broadband at speeds that meet the FCC standard set in January. After meeting with FCC officials, Comcast and Time Warner Cable were left with little hope, said one source.
FCC officials concluded an extended hearing was required in part because of the complexity of the issues the deal raised, according to a person close to the agency. The hearing would have given all sides an opportunity to weigh in on these concerns, such as innovation and rise of Internet-based video services, cable-TV pricing and bundling of channels.
The loss of its suitor leaves Time Warner Cable's future in limbo. Executives at the company are planning to tell shareholders on an earnings conference call next Thursday how the company is prepared to survive as a standalone company, according to one source.
Before the deal with Comcast was announced in February, 2014, Time Warner Cable was in talks to merge with a smaller cable provider Charter Communications Inc., whose largest investor is billionaire John Malone. Those talks could be revived by Comcast's exit.
In the short term, the deal's collapse means Charter, which agreed to take control of 3.9 million Comcast cable-TV subscribers to help ease its approval, won't get those customers. Another Charter deal to purchase Bright House Networks could also be in jeopardy, because Time Warner Cable has the right to block the agreement as part of its long-time arrangement to negotiate programming and other deals for Bright House.