Will Charter step in if Comcast-TWC marriage bid fails? No doubt

Don’t look now, but the sharks already are circling the increasingly ephemeral Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.

Not only is Wall Street getting ready to give up the ghost on a deal — BTIG Analyst Rich Greenfield gives it , at best, a 30% chance of happening — but now TWC’s original suitor, Charter Communications, is hinting it is likely to get back in the hunt if the deal falls through.

News reports say Greg Maffei, CEO of Charter’s biggest stakeholder, Liberty Media, told investors he can think of “tons of reasons” Charter would likely rekindle its ardor for TWC if federal regulators block the marriage of the No. 1 and No. 2 cable companies in the United States.

Charter’s stock has been on a hot streak, climbing some 47.5% in the past 12 months, giving it some extra cash to make a better offer than it did before Comcast outbid it last year.

That, said Maffei, makes it easier for Charter to afford the deal, which was a major stumbling block in the negotiations last year.

Charter’s sitting in the catbird seat regardless. If the Comcast-TWC does manage to go through – something that has become less sure over time, especially since the combined company would control 63% of the U.S. broadband market after the Federal Communications Commission raised the floor of high-speed broadband to 25 Mbps in January – Charter picks up a few million customers from a planned spinoff.

If it doesn’t happen, well, Charter is more than ready to pop the question.

John Malone, who controls Liberty Media, still has a hankering for TWC. At Liberty Media’s investor day in November, Malone was asked if Charter would pursue a purchase if Comcast were blocked.

His reply? “Hell, yes.”

Stay tuned.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn