Speculation Builds on a Verizon-Charter Tie-up, No Offer Made

By Anjali Athavaley and Liana B. Baker Markets Reuters

(Reuters)

U.S. cable company Charter Communication Inc shares rose as much as 10 percent on Thursday after the Wall Street Journal reported a preliminary approach by Verizon Communications Inc about a tie-up, but Reuters sources said no proposal was made.

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Speculation over a combination of the two companies has been building steadily since last month, when Verizon Chief Executive Officer Lowell McAdam told Wall Street analysts that such a deal would make "industrial sense."

Analysts and investors have predicted a wave of deals in the telecommunication, media and cable sectors in the wake of AT&T Inc's planned $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner Inc . Both AT&T and Verizon have looked to diversify due to a saturated wireless market.

After hitting a session high of $341.50, Charter shares traded up 8 percent at $335.20, giving the company a market capitalization of $103.6 billion. Verizon shares fell 1 percent at $49.20, giving the company a market capitalization of $200.7 billion.

The Journal reported it was unclear if Charter's executives would be open to a transaction and that there was no guarantee a deal would be struck.

Charter and Verizon declined to comment.

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Verizon had a market capitalization of $203 billion as of Wednesday's close, while Charter was valued at nearly $84 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data.

A Verizon-Charter combination would bring together Verizon's more than 114 million wireless subscribers with Charter's cable network, which provides television to 17 million customers and broadband connections to 21 million, the Journal said.

Verizon's traditional wireless business has been losing customers to smaller rivals T-Mobile U.S. Inc and Sprint Corp and the company has been looking to diversify its revenue stream.

To that end, Verizon struck a deal to buy Yahoo Inc's core internet properties. But the deal was cast into doubt after Yahoo disclosed data breaches last year.

Charter completed its acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc last year. (Reporting by Anjali Athavaley in New York and Liana B. Baker in San Francisco; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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