ATS Successfully Completes Automotive Quality Audit

July 2017

Advanced Technical Services announced today that is has successfully completed an automotive quality audit for a major automotive OEM.

The successful completion of this audit verifies that the Quality Management System implemented and maintained by ATS meets the standards and requirements set by this automotive OEM.

Company President Dave Vikartofsky said, as an approved quality supplier to this customer, we can now participate in any relevant electronic remanufacturing RFQs that may become available in the future.

ATS adds this successful quality audit completion to the list of other automotive and non-automotive quality certifications already in place.

Comcast partners with SunRun to market residential solar

solar panels
Under terms of the deal, Comcast will need to commit to spending $10 million on sales and marketing to receive a cut of consumer sales.

ATS Successfully Completes Annual ISO Audit

Advanced Technical Services has successfully completed a re-certification audit by NSF in June of 2017.

The certification verifies that the Quality Management System implemented and maintained by ATS meets the requirements of the ISO 9001-2008 standard for our repair processes.

ATS has been ISO certified since 2007 and is proud of the ongoing commitment from our entire team.  We have begun the transition to the ISO 9001-2015 version, with an expected completion date of summer of 2018.

Charter surges as Japan’s SoftBank considers bid

(Reuters) - Charter Communications Inc's shares surged to a record high on Monday after a source said Japan's SoftBank Group Corp was considering an acquisition offer, even as Charter shot down the possibility of it being the acquirer in any merger with SoftBank's U.S. wireless carrier, Sprint Corp.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Sunday that SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son is considering making a bid for Charter as soon as the end of August, in what would be by far the Japanese telecommunications conglomerate's biggest ever deal.

Charter has a market capitalization of more than $100 billion and another $60 billion in debt.

The bid would be at least 50 percent in cash and the rest in stock, the source said.

SoftBank is working with JPMorgan Chase & Co, Deutsche Bank AG and Mizuho Financial Group Inc on raising debt financing for its bid, sources close to the matter said. It may enlist more banks in the future, the sources added.

The prospect of a Sprint-Charter tie-up comes at a time when the telecom industry is preparing for a wave of deal activity. Regulators lifted a ban on merger discussions among telecom companies following the conclusion of an auction of broadcaster airwaves for wireless use in April.

Analysts and investors have said that tie-ups between cable companies and wireless carriers increasingly make sense as the distinction between broadband and wireless connectivity blurs, and consumers demand seamless connections for their devices.

Cable companies have the infrastructure that wireless carriers need for the growing amounts of mobile data customers are using. Cable companies could benefit from ownership of cellular networks as they launch their own mobile services.

Charter is currently planning to launch its own wireless service on Verizon Communications Inc's network next year, and analysts have said that renting a network from a wireless carrier will be more costly long term than owning one.

Sprint, which is in the middle of a turnaround plan, has been looking to boost its financial status and better compete amid a fiercely competitive and saturated market for wireless service. The company has been exploring deal options with T-Mobile US Inc but faces the hurdle of reaching an agreement on price as well as getting the deal approved by regulators. Both companies have said they are open to other partners.

Charter's shares closed at $391.91, up 5.8 percent, after hitting a record high of $399.95. Sprint shares closed down 2.9 percent to $7.98.

A Charter spokesman declined to comment on Monday on whether the company would sell to the wireless carrier.

A deal between the two could be complex and disruptive, analysts said, noting financing issues, complicated ownerships and the possibility of upending existing partnerships.

Investors said a deal with Sprint would be negative for Charter bondholders as it would likely increase leverage significantly.

JPMorgan analyst Philip Cusick wrote in a research note that a base case scenario would assume a $500-a-share bid for Charter, paid for with $20 billion of new cash from SoftBank and $40 billion of new debt. The deal could drive $2 billion in annual synergies, but he noted that SoftBank could lever Charter up significantly. A deal could also nullify part or all of Charter's network resale agreement with Verizon.

It would also require the blessing of cable provider Comcast Corp. Comcast and Charter announced a wireless partnership in May aimed at finding cost savings as both companies enter the wireless market with their own mobile services. That agreement bars either company from tying up with a wireless carrier for a year without the other company's consent.

Comcast’s Roberts: ‘I don’t see anything in the industry … we don’t already have today’

by Daniel Frankel | Jul 27, 2017 10:49am

Waving off the latest flurry of merger speculation, Comcast reported a strong 5.5% year-over-year revenue increase in its cable operation during the second quarter, based on what the company said was rate increases and customers signing up for additional services.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization increased 5.4%, despite slightly lower-than-expected performance in customer metrics and a sharp spike in programming costs.

"The standout result in the cable segment was stable EBITDA margins, despite a 12% increase in programming expense," said Jonathan Chaplin, analyst at New Street Research.

Comcast lost 34,000 video customers in the second quarter, roughly in line with industry consensus forecasts for losses of around 24,000. Video revenue increased by 3.9%, with Comcast targeting a third-quarter launch for its new IP-video-over-managed-network service, Xfinity Instant Video.

Comcast added 175,000 high-speed internet customers in the second quarter, narrowly missing consensus estimates of 188,000 users. Revenue from broadband increased 9.2%.

Revenue from business services increased 12.6%

“There is significant runway ahead in broadband,” said Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson, citing Comcast’s 45% penetration of broadband services in its footprint.

With revenue from Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit surging 17.3%, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts took time to shoot down the latest merger rumors, which have speculated on Comcast merging with everyone from Verizon to Charter.

“I thought we were really clear last quarter,” Roberts said. “Yes, we always look at the world around us and do our jobs related to the opportunities that are out that. But we love our business… No disrespect to wireless, but that’s a tough business. We like what we’re doing with Xfinity Mobile. It really improves what we hope it will improve. It will be a long road, and I don’t see anything in the industry where we envy a position we don’t have today. I think we have a really special company, and I wouldn’t want to do anything to change that."

Here is a breakdown of some of Comcast’s other key second-quarter metrics:

NBCUniversal: The turnaround at Comcast’s 2011 acquisition has yet to peak, with revenue from theme parks up 17.3% and adjusted EBITDA up 22.6%. Filmed entertainment spiked 59.6% in the second quarter, thanks largely to the $1.23 billion raked in at the global box office by the latest iteration of the long-running "The Fast and the Furious' franchise. EBITDA from broadcast and cable networks was up 5.5% and 11.7%, respectively.

Streaming: After testing its IP-delivered video service, Xfinity Instant Video, in Boston and Chicago, Comcast will deploy the service across its footprint in the third quarter. “This is not something we’ll do broad-based,” Watson said. “It will be very targeted [toward millennials]. We love our full video positioning with X1, but Instant TV gives us one more part of the portfolio to go after.”

More on mergers: MoffettNathanson analysts echoed Roberts’ sentiment on merger speculation in a morning memo to investors. “We can only imagine that all this mind-numbing nonsense is met with a mixture of frustration and amusement in Philadelphia,” Moffett wrote. “Incremental cost savings from additional scale in cable would be de minimis; relative valuations versus wireless are wholly unappealing; and the regulatory hurdles to any and all of these scenarios are daunting at best, and insurmountable at worst. And more to the point,” he added, “why in Heaven’s name would Comcast want to do any of them?”

Report: Charter Looking To Buy Cox Communications

While it was rumored that Charter said “no thank you” to Verizon’s estimated $100 billion merger offer earlier this year because it just wasn’t enough money, new reports suggest the rejection was actually because Charter wanted to go on its own shopping spree, snatching up Cox Communications. 

The New York Post, citing sources familiar with the matter, reports that Charter is considering a play to purchase Cox Communications.

Cox, which has about 21 million customers, provides service in 18 states scattered through the U.S., including Massachusetts, Florida, Virginia, California, and Arizona. Charter, on the other hand, offers service to 27 million people in 28 states, including California, Missouri, and Michigan.

The sources say that Charter CEO Tom Rutledge is very interested in the Atlanta-base cable company, but that no formal approach has been made yet.

Still, Charter’s desire to acquire Cox could be all talk, as Cox has brushed off many advances from the company in the past.

DSLreports suggests that Charter has approached Cox several times since 2013 and been rejected each time.

That’s likely to be the case this time around, as well.

“Cox has been very clear and consistent that we are not for sale and, in fact, we’re aggressively investing in our network, products and strategic partnerships and investments of our own,” a rep for the company tells the NY Post.

But with a change of leadership poised to take place next year, sources say that Charter is hoping that Cox will be singing a different tune when it comes to a marriage.

Charter, of course, is no stranger to mergers. The company spent about $55 billion on acquiring Time Warner Cable and another $10 billion on Bright House Networks. But just because the company has experience in mergers, doesn’t mean it’s a pro at actually brining the companies together.

In fact, the combination with Time Warner and Bright House Networks has been a lengthy, complicated, and sometimes messy process.

Speaking of Charter’s merger woes, the New York Department of Public Service announced it had reached a potential $13 million settlement [PDF] with the company for its failure to meet deadlines to expand its network, a condition of its acquisition with Time Warner Cable.

“The Commission conditioned its approval of the merger on Charter’s agreement to undertake several types of investments and other activities,” Department Interim CEO Gregg C. Sayre said in a statement. “While Charter is delivering on many of them, it failed to expand the reach of its network to un-served and under-served communities and commercial customers in the time allotted.”

The settlement, which must still be approved, would require Charter to pay $1 million in grants for equipment to provide computer and internet access to low-income users, and to set aside $12 million as a security to meet its network expansion commitment going forward.

Apple is working on its own self-driving car technology

MarketWatch - 06/13/2017 10:02:00AM

Apple is building its own self-driving car technology, chief executive Tim Cook told Bloomberg in a recent interview.  Cook says Apple is focusing on making an autonomous car system. Cook told Bloomberg that the company is working on "autonomous systems," meaning the technology underlying a self-driving car, rather than beginning by building the car itself. Cook would not tell Bloomberg whether the company planned to ever manufacture its own car. In the self-driving car space, Apple is up against competitors including Alphabet Inc.'s ( GOOG) NVidia , and self-driving car unit WeMo, Tesla Inc. ( TSLA)

Charter reportedly spurned $100B-plus offer from Verizon

by Dade Hayes

Facing a slowdown in mobile phone sales and looking to keep pace with rival AT&T, Verizon reportedly made an offer for Charter Communications worth more than $100 million, but the bid was rejected, according to an account in the New York Post.

The paper, citing multiple unnamed sources, said Charter turned it down because it was too low, and it also wasn't ready to sell. In recent months, Charter shares have spiked at times when speculation of a Verizon deal mounted—but many analysts have poured cold water on the prospects.

Liberty Media, which owns a large but non-controlling stake in Charter, also fielded interest from Verizon in Sirius XM, the satellite radio company, according to the Post. But that interest didn't progress to a formal offer either.

The operating environment for both Verizon and AT&T has shifted dramatically over the past year. Each giant is getting bigger—Verizon has acquired Yahoo, which it will merge with AOL when the Yahoo deal closes this month, and AT&T is set to add Time Warner to its stable once that $85 billion megadeal closes next year.

MoffettNathanson principal analyst Craig Moffett wrote a blog post (sub. req.)in January that dismissed the possibility of a Verizon-Charter deal. But he also acknowledged the rationale of attempting it.

“To be sure, we understand why Verizon would be interested,” Moffett wrote. “The next generation of wireless will be about small cells with small radii. And every one of those cells needs to be connected to a wire. That means lots and lots of wires. And Cable has the most wires.”

Another hurdle standing in the way of a deal, from Charter's perspective, is the potential tax implications. Liberty's chairman John Malone, the ultimate cable dealmaker, is famously averse to transactions that carry significant tax burdens and has been known to shuffle assets relentlessly in order to optimize his companies' tax obligations.

Cable adds over 1M HSI subscribers in Q1, now controls 63% of the U.S. market

by Daniel Frankel

by Daniel Frankel | May 19, 2017 11:23am

Spearheaded by the explosive growth of Comcast and Charter Communications, cable operators collectively added over 1.003 million high-speed internet (HSI) subscribers in the first quarter, further seizing market share from the telco sector, according to Leichtman Research Group.

Beset by Frontier Communications’ heavy Fios losses (107,000 users), the telco sector collectively lost 44,571 HSI customers in the first quarter. Cable operators finished the quarter controlling 63.2% of the U.S. wireline broadband market, up from 61.5% in the first quarter of 2016.

Telco operators lost nearly 727,000 HSI customers in the 12-month period ending March 31, with subscribers fleeing DSL services. Cable operators have added over 3.11 million broadband users over that same period, attracting customers with DOCSIS 3.0- and 3.1-powered gigabit-speed services, in a growing number of cases.

The U.S. broadband market expanded by 2.38 million users over the one-year period, according to Leichtman.

Charter was the biggest gainer in the first quarter, adding 458,000 HSI customers, followed by Comcast (430,000). On the other side, Verizon follows Frontier with losses of 27,000 users. AT&T added 90,000 U-verse internet customers after losing 14,000 in the first quarter of 2016.

"With the addition of nearly one million subscribers in the quarter, the top cable and telco broadband providers in the U.S. cumulatively now account for over 93.9 million subscribers in the US," said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group. "In the first quarter of 2017, the number of broadband subscribers surpassed the number of pay-TV subscribers in the U.S.”

Wave close to $2B purchase by same private equity group that bought RCN and Grande

by Daniel Frankel | May 19, 2017 11:47am

After buying up RCN Telecom Services and Grande Communications last year, private equity firm TPG Capital is reportedly close to a $2 billion deal for WaveDivision Holdings LLC, parent of Kirkland, Washington-based cable operator Wave Broadband.

Reuters reported the deal citing unnamed sources. Neither TPG or Wave are commenting at this point.

Last month, the news service reported that Oak Hill Capital Management LLC and GI Partners—which jointly own Wave, along with the operator’s top management—hired investment bank UBS Group AG to conduct an auction for the cable company.

In August of 2016, TPG acquired RCN and Grande Communications for $2.25 billion from another buyout firm, ABRY Partners. That deal closed in February.

Should TPG close on Wave, as well, it would form the nation’s sixth largest cable operator.

Wave’s footprint covers the Sacramento and San Francisco areas, as well as Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

Unlike many other cable operators, which have built their networks around DOCSIS technologies, Wave has invested heavily in fiber. The company said last fall that it currently has 1,000 ongoing fiber projects.