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Adelphia Cable Up for Grabs

Now that John Rigas has put Adelphia Cable in the toilet, someone wants you to buy the toilet.

NEW YORK- Bankrupt cable operator Adelphia Communications Corp., which last month chose advisers to manage its potential sale, said Friday it has been in informal talks with potential bidders and expects to start the auction shortly after Labor Day.

Adelphia, which said it aims to finalize the auction by the end of this year, said it would solicit bids for both the whole company and for certain clusters of subscribers it would detail in the future.

It said it expects preliminary indications of interest to be due in October.

Adelphia hired investment bank UBS and boutique firm Allen & Co. to run its sale process in mid-July, after a months-long search for banks that had no perceived conflicts of interest.

Time Warner Inc., Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc. are widely considered the most likely bidders in the auction, though experts within the cable industry have questioned whether any of them would want to buy the entire company.

A sale of the entire company could fetch as much as $20 billion, though that could drop toward the $17 billion value it was assigned in its restructuring if the company continues to lose subscribers.

Adelphia’s more than 5 million subscribers are spread across the United States, but concentrated in areas like Los Angeles, the Northeast, Virginia and Florida that are likely to generate bidding interest on their own.

Some analysts and investment bankers have tagged Time Warner Cable, the No. 2 U.S. operator, as the company most likely to bid for all of Adelphia.

Time Warner could then trade newly purchased subscriber clusters to Comcast in exchange for Comcast’s 21 percent interest in Time Warner Cable, which Fitch estimated is worth $5.5 billion. Comcast also has a $1.5 billion share of cable partnerships with Time Warner that could be unwound.

Comcast, whose cable operations have key overlaps with Adelphia’s in Los Angeles, Florida, the Northeast and Colorado, might also choose to bid for the whole company if it doesn’t strike some type of partnership with Time Warner.

Cox Communications has also expressed interest in buying parts of Adelphia. But an offer by the family that controls Cox to take it private could dampen its interest in the auction because the new company’s capacity to borrow more money would be limited.

One key to Adelphia’s sale process will be its audited financial statements, which are still absent following a corruption scandal that resulted in founder John Rigas being declared guilty of fraud and conspiracy in connection with Adelphia’s collapse.



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