Shares of Cablevision Systems Corp. climbed about 7 percent Friday after a billionaire French entrepreneur was quoted as saying he wanted to acquire U.S. cable operators like the Bethpage-based company.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Patrick Drahi, who founded European telecommunications company Altice SA, said in an interview that he would like to buy companies like Cablevision, the owner of Newsday, and Atlanta-based Cox Communications Inc., which serves about six million customers.
Shares of Cablevision rose $1.77, or 7.1 percent, to $26.62 in late afternoon trading. A spokeswoman for Cablevision, which has 3.1 million customers, declined to comment on the report.
A spokesman for Cox Communications, which is privately held, said that the company is "definitely not for sale," but remains open to "growth opportunities that align with our business objectives."
Thomas Eagan, an analyst at Manhattan research and brokerage firm Telsey Advisory Group, said that Friday's move in Cablevision's stock was "overdone" -- meaning, he said, that the stock had risen too high -- and that Drahi might be trying to flush out other cable operators who are willing to sell.
In May, Altice got a foothold in the U.S. market by buying 70 percent of U.S. cable group Suddenlink Communications for $9.1 billion. Suddenlink, based in St. Louis, has about 1.5 million subscribers.
Drahi's strategy is to stitch together U.S. cable assets and add mobile phone service to the established "triple play" offering of TV, telephone and Internet service, Eagan said.
That "quad play," already in use in Europe, could reduce loss of customers.
"It could be that a quad play works," he said. "We just haven't seen it yet in the U.S."
Cablevision has rolled out its Freewheel WiFi-only phone, priced at $9.95 per month for cable subscribers, but it does not offer a cellular phone option.