By Javier E. David
Time Warner Cable's flirtation with potential merger suitors may include Comcast, which is seeking advice on possible regulatory hurdles if it should pursue a bid, sources told CNBC on Friday.
Comcast (CMCSA) (CMCSK), the parent company of CNBC, is not in active discussions on deal terms with Time Warner Cable (TWC), these sources say, but is asking for guidance on antitrust and telecommunications-related issues. According to people familiar with the matter, TWC has made it clear that if it should sell itself, Comcast would be its preferred buyer. These people add that Comcast has been quietly mulling a merger with TWC for some time.
The cable operator is on the verge of a bid from Charter Communications (CHTR), according to The Wall Street Journal, which said Charter is near an agreement with banks for the funds to make that offer. Analysts, however, say Time Warner's needs may be better suited with Comcast.
"The synergies are very real, and Comcast would be a better fit," said Craig Moffett, founder and senior analyst at MoffettNathanson. He said that while the Department of Justice's anti-trust requirements may not pose an insurmountable challenge, the more stringent litmus test might come from the Federal Communications Commission.
"The harder challenge would be the FCC," Moffett said. "The FCC applies a public interest test that would be much more subjective" than the DOJ, and would raise tough questions about market concentration and diversity of cable offerings. "It wouldn't be a slam dunk by any means," the analyst added.
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