Buyout offer comes as cable stocks hit new lows

NEW YORK — Cox Communications has appointed a special committee of independent board members to consider a $7.9 billion offer to take the No. 4 U.S. cabler private.

The panel will negotiate on behalf of the cabler with Cox Enterprises, which offered to pay $32 a share for the 38% of the company it doesn’t own. Deal would value the company at $20.8 billion.

The special committee, which consists of former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, ad exec Janet Clark and tech entrepreneur Rodney Schrock, tapped Goldman, Sachs & Co. as its financial adviser and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson as its legal adviser to assist with the evaluation of the proposal.

The buyout offer comes as cable stocks have languished for months, trading at or near their 52-week lows on investor concern over the increasing competitive threat from sat TV and the telcos.

Cox shares closed up 27¢ to $33.05 on Wednesday on investor hopes that the special committee will be able to extract a sweetened deal from Cox Enterprises. Its stock has appreciated 20% since the bid was announced Aug. 2.

Stock in Cox Communications traded over $36 in February, but since then shares have slipped steadily, even though the company reliably meets its earnings targets.

Cox Enterprises, a private media holding company with newspaper, television and radio assets with revenues of $10.7 billion, owns 62% of Cox Communications and 73% of the voting rights.

Company is controlled by billionaire sisters Barbara Cox Anthony, 80, and Anne Cox Chambers, 84, tied at 23rd on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people.

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