Turning Time Warner Cable into a separately traded company is top of the list of priorities at Time Warner this year as the media group tries to increase its share price further, Dick Parsons, chairman and chief executive, said on Wednesday.
Once the listing is completed, however, Mr Parsons indicated he did not think the shares would be used for other big cable acquisitions in the immediate term. Further consolidation in the US cable market was a “three- to five-year process”, he told the Financial Times.
When new shares of Time Warner Cable could begin trading remains unclear. The timing partly hinges on decisions by a bankruptcy judge about a plan to pay the creditors of Adelphia Communications, the cable group acquired last year by Time Warner and Comcast for more than $17bn.
Mr Parsons stressed that Time Warner was still working on a second route to listing the cable business, through a traditional initial public offering. The company would not comment on timing, but a listing by one of these routes is expected in the next three months.
Shares in Time Warner – which owns Warner Brothers film studios, cable channels such as CNN and Cartoon Network, Time Inc magazine publishing and the AOL internet business – have risen about 25 per cent in the past year.
Results for the fourth quarter of 2006, released on Wednesday, showed that cable remained strong, with operating income up 26 per cent to $633m and revenue up 58 per cent to $3.65bn. Total revenues for the quarter were $12.5bn.
Analysts have said Time Warner shares could move higher if cable is spun off, as they have not gained as much as cable rivals such as Comcast.
Time Warner’s shares underperformed for years but have recently improved. Confidence stems from the prospects for AOL, as it gains online advertising market share, the cable business and the company’s $20bn stock buy-back plan, which will be completed in the first half of this year.
Mr Parsons said that changing the stock market’s perception of AOL “as a company that will grow again” remained key, as was developing “digital extrapolations” for all businesses.