Trying to Fend Off Takeover, Time Warner Cable Promises Better Product

Promises Faster Internet in New York and Los Angeles

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Time Warner Cable beat fourth-quarter profit estimates and forecast subscriber growth, bolstering CEO's case against a $37.4 billion takeover bid from Charter Communications.

Rob Marcus
Rob Marcus Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Excluding one-time costs, earnings were $1.82 a share, the company said today in a statement. Analysts had estimated $1.73 on average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. New York-based Time Warner Cable is pushing to add 1 million residential customers in the next three years, Mr. Marcus said today.

Time Warner Cable also said it will use new technology and a more user-friendly interface to help win back customers in 2014. The company announced a plan today to begin increasing internet speeds and add video-recording features in New York and Los Angeles this year.

The CEO presided over a 91-minute conference call with analysts -- about half an hour more than normal -- to discuss quarterly results, laying out his plan to lure more customers with faster internet speeds and better TV technology. He repeatedly talked about the company's ability to return value to shareholders as opposed to Charter's "too-low" offer.

"I am honored and thrilled to lead this great company, and I couldn't be more enthusiastic about our future," he said. "We're geared up to manage this company for the long haul."

Charter, the fourth-largest competitor in the cable industry, has said a merger with second-ranked Time Warner Cable would cut expenses such as programming and technology as the industry adjusts to shrinking demand for cable TV.

Time Warner Cable lost 217,000 residential video subscribers in the fourth quarter, hurt by competition from AT&T, Verizon Communications and streaming services such as Netflix. To boost sales, the company is charging subscribers more: Their average monthly bill climbed 2.2% to $106.03 last quarter.

Looming bid
Charter's bid loomed over Time Warner Cable throughout the fourth quarter. The Stamford, Connecticut-based carrier approached Time Warner Cable in October and December to propose a friendly takeover, then went public with an acquisition offer earlier this month.

Time Warner Cable's Mr. Marcus rejected Charter's buyout bid of $132.50 a share and said he's open to a deal for $160 a share, or $100 in cash and $60 in Charter stock.

While Mr. Marcus acknowledged that mergers could produce benefits, Charter isn't a good fit, he said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.

"Charter has been on and off the block for most of the last several years," he said. "We've had an opportunity to look at it and, it's not a company that has particularly interested us."

While it has lost TV customers, Time Warner Cable has continued to add broadband Internet subscribers, gaining about 56,000 in the fourth quarter. Still, its performance contrasts with market leader Comcast Corp., which added 43,000 TV customers in the same period.

For the year, Time Warner Cable shed about 825,000 TV users, or 6.8% of its customer base. That compares with a 1.4% decline for Philadelphia-based Comcast in 2013.

~ Bloomberg News ~

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