French-Israeli telecom billionaire Patrick Drahi has turned his sights on the U.S. cable market by acquiring a 70 percent stake in cable operator Suddenlink Communications. Drahi reportedly closed the deal by paying $1.2 billion in cash, $6.7 billion in current and new debts, and an additional $500 million in a vendor loan. This latest acquisition is widely seen as a springboard for further U.S. expansion by Drahi and his Luxembourg company Altice.
The deal values the St. Louis-based cable company at $9.1 billion. Suddenlink, the seventh largest cable operator in the U.S., has 1.5 million subscribers. In 2014, the company earned $2.3 billion in revenue and reported more than $900 million in operating profits.
The Moroccan born financier created his European telecom empire by acquiring over 20 mobile and cable companies in a relatively fragmented European market. Drahi’s company Altice has become a major media and communications player in Europe, just recently acquiring France’s second largest wireless operator SFR. He additionally holds controlling stakes in the French daily Liberation and weekly L’Express. His assets in Israel include the television network i24 News.
The 51 year-old billionaire is said to be in talks to buy Time Warner Cable (TWC). In April 2015, a long-standing deal proposed by Comcast to buy TWC was stalled after U.S. regulators raised their objections, citing concerns that a mega-merger could create a market monopoly and undercut competition.
Drahi holds French and Israeli citizenship and presently lives in Geneva, Switzerland. Forbes Magazine ranks him as the 57th richest person in the world with a net worth of $26 billion as of May 2015.