Altice Plans to Spin Off US Business

Altice CEO Dexter Goei and founder Patrick Drahi

Plan would split Altice USA from parent; Drahi still in control

Days after premium network Starz pulled its content from its United States cable arm in which it owns a 67.2% stake, Altice NV has not only announced that it is separating its U.S. business through a distribution in kind to its shareholders, but will also rename itself as Altice Europe, comprising Altice France, Altice International and newly formed Altice Pay TV subsidiary.

Company founder Patrick Drahi will "retain control" of both companies through the firm Next2.

In addition, the Altice USA board of directors approved a $1.5 billion cash dividend to all shareholders immediately prior to completion of the separation.

As part of this separation €1.26 billion ($1.5 billion) will be returned to shareholders, with €900 million going to Altice Europe.

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This new company will control all of the same divisions that were previously under Altice France, Altice International and the Altice Pay TV subsidiary.

Altice's shares jumped by 10% on the news after a period in which the troubled telecom group's stock lost about half its value, following its unveiling of poor Q3 results at the end of November.

Altice is to separate Altice USA from the parent company by spinning off its 67.2% stake in the company. The company emphasized that he "is committed to long-term ownership".

The latter will include integrating Altice's support services businesses into their respective markets and bundling Altice Europe's premium content activities into one separately funded operating unit with its own P&L. Dexter Goei, who had been group CFO, will continue to serve as CEO and a director of Altice USA. The remaining company will be renamed Altice Europe.

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For Altice USA, the business strategy will continue, with the focus on investments in networks and the video product, simplification across the operations and improved customer service.

"A separate listing of Altice Europe makes a sale of this asset easier, to Bouygues or Iliad for instance, which could both consider market consolidation synergies in France, in our view", Raymond James wrote in a research note.

Altice USA exited December with a reported workforce of 12,350 employees, a year-over-year decline of 3,650 jobs.

Drahi in a statement also said that there was a path to further strengthen the European balance sheet over the long term through non-core asset disposals.

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Separation will have no impact on the debt structure of Altice USA, made up of Optimum and Suddenlink, other than the effect of the financing transactions related to the Dollars 1.5 billion special cash dividend.

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