"Unfortunately for Comcast," despite the "powerful lobbyists" working to push approval of its planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable, the Federal Communications Commission has put together a merger review team that don't look likely to "rubber stamp" anything, writes bond analyst Dave Novosel in a report to clients of Gimme Credit LLC, new York.
- William Rogerson, Northwestern U economist and ex-FCC Chief Economist, who opposed the Comcast/NBC deal on grounds of "significant competitive harm, while pay TV customers would face huge increases"
- Hilary Burchuk, "who represented the Justice Department in its lawsuit against the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile," which the goernment ultimately rejected -- "the position several critics have taken with regard to the Comcast acqusition of TWC"
That adds up to "intense scrutiny." Novosel still thinks the deal will be approved -- with conditions: more customer divestitures, "additional net neutrality promises," guaranteed content.
Of course, he adds, Comcast "is doing just fine without TWC:" NBC advertising has gained while other networks are falling. Comcast keeps signing new customers. The company in April spent $320 million for mobile-ad platform FreeWheel Media, which will give it valuable ad data, though Comcast has promised not to exploit this for NBC's benefit.
Bottom line: Comcast can afford TimeWarner Cable thanks to its "enormous cash flow" and the expense cuts and savings that will likely follow a merger. So Gimme Credit is recommending Comcast bonds, at current spreads.