Survey: Consumers may hang up on combined AT&T-T-Mobile

Contact: Brenon Daly

As the largest telco deal announced in a half-decade, AT&T’s proposed purchase of T-Mobile USA has had an outsized impact on the still-nascent mobile market. To get a sense of some of the implications, our subsidiary ChangeWave Research surveyed more than 4,100 consumers at the end of September on a number of questions, including a few that touched on the transformative transaction. The takeaway: customers give the thumbs down to AT&T’s planned consolidation move, largely because of network performance problems.

On questions about wireless service providers, the ChangeWave survey found that T-Mobile and AT&T each have the lowest percentage of subscribers who say they are ‘very satisfied’ with their service. Only one-quarter of T-Mobile subscribers said that (half the level of industry leader Verizon Wireless), with only one out of five AT&T subscribers saying that. The combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would create the largest US wireless carrier, with roughly 130 million subscribers.

Perhaps more of an indictment of AT&T’s service, however, came when ChangeWave asked existing T-Mobile subscribers whether they were planning to continue with the combined company, assuming the acquisition clears regulatory review. One of five current subscribers said they planned to change wireless providers, with another 38% saying they didn’t know what they would do. Just one-third of current T-Mobile subscribers indicated they will continue subscribing if AT&T takes over.

If you are interested in finding out more about the consumer smartphone market and trends, be sure to join ChangeWave for a special Webinar on Thursday at 1:00pm EST. The presentation will cover overall market demand, as well as look specifically at the recently launched Apple iPhone 4S and the all-important holiday season forecasts by consumers. To join the Webinar tomorrow, simply register here.

Cablevision breaks the mold with Bresnan acquisition

Contact: Ben Kolada

Marking a significant departure from its recent practice, Cablevision Systems said last week that it would hand over almost $1.4bn in cash and stock for Bresnan Communications. The deal by the Dolan gang is their first major telecom acquisition since they picked up a portion of Tele-Communications in 1998. And they certainly paid up for Bresnan.

Cablevision’s offer values Bresnan at about 3.4 times trailing revenue and just over 8x projected 2010 cash flow, according to our understanding. On a per-subscriber basis, the acquirer is paying $4,500 a head. Across the board, that’s a far richer valuation – in some cases, twice as rich – than fellow telco RCN got in its take-private in March. Buyout shop ABRY Partners paid $1.2bn for RCN, or roughly 1.6x trailing revenue (on an enterprise value basis) and $2,800 per subscriber.

Given the size of this deal, along with the fact that Cablevision used equity in the purchase, we don’t expect the Bresnan transaction to signal the beginning of a shopping spree. Indeed, Cablevision executives maintain that they are not looking for additional properties. After all, Cablevision doesn’t need to buy more systems – the Tele-Communications acquisition gave it sufficient economies of scale. The Bresnan buy is simply a rare opportunity to obtain upgraded systems with strong growth potential.

M&A: Cable comparison

Date announced
Acquirer Target Deal value Price-to-sales multiple
March 5, 2010 ABRY Partners RCN $1.2bn 1.6
June 14, 2010 Cablevision Systems Bresnan Communications $1.4bn 3.4*

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase *451 Group Estimate