Embattled cable group reportedly open to asset sales

Altice this week said it is open to asset sales, as the embattled cable group prioritises debt reduction over M&As.

The acquisitive company has undertaken several bold, debt-funded mergers in recent years, including swallowing up mobile operator SFR in France, and two U.S. cable providers in Suddenlink and Cablevision.

But last week, Altice CEO Michel Combes was suddenly replaced by former CEO Dexter Goei, after a disappointing performance at its French operation – which accounts for just under half of the group’s revenue – led to growing concerns about its debt pile.

"We’ll be focused on de-leveraging European assets," said Altice CFO Dennis Okhuijsen, in an AFP report from a Morgan Stanley conference in Barcelona on Wednesday.

"We’ll be very focused on no M&A, going back to basics," and having "no expenditure unnecessary for corporate development," he said.

Altice is also considering the sale of non-core assets, including "potential tower sales," Okhuijsen said.

At the same time, Altice needs to move quickly to stem customer losses at SFR. The unit lost some 75,000 broadband customers in the third quarter.

According to AFP, Altice founder Patrick Drahi admitted that SFR has fallen short when it comes to customer service.

"We have to make the customer happy to be with us," he said, at the conference.