Cablevision's Dolan: Maybe We Will Buy Newsday, Maybe We Won't

Anyone looking for clarity on Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan’s acqusition strategy can just keep waiting. Dolan frustrated analysts on the Q1 conference call, refusing to give clear answers to the following reasonable questions: Is the company getting into the newspaper business? The concert business? Will there be more share buybacks? Another attempt to take the company private?

Dolan’s responses came down to the following: “We continue to look at all of those options as well as strategic investments to help what is really a healthy business right now.”

Ok, thanks.

Dolan would neither confirm or deny interest in Newsday, the most concerning of all options apparently on the table. Fortunately for the Dolans and for shareholders, the cable company is in great shape, adding video subscribers in the quarter, indicating it is still successfully fighting off Verizon FiOS and satellite competition, and other subscriber metrics (data, phone) look healthy.

The company also detailed plans to roll out a mesh network using WiFi technology over the next two years at a cost of $100 per customer. This after Comcast and Time Warner Cable teamed up with Sprint Nextel and Clearwire to build a nationwide broadband wireless network using WiMax technology.

Cablevision’s overall results were dragged down by Madison Square Garden where operating loss grew to $19.7 million. That contributed to Cablevision’s EPS loss of $0.11 compared to the $0.02 EPS profit expected by the Street. Revenues were in-line with expectations, up 10% to $1.72 billion.

But the analysts on the call were fishing for any kind of insight into Dolan’s thinking on the future of the business, and it was just not forthcoming. Rainbow Networks chief Josh Sapan talked about the pending acquisition of Sundance Channel, but Dolan stonewalled all questions about Cablevision’s reported $650 million bid for Newsday, as well as the reported talks with Barry Diller to take a stake in concert promoter AEG.

Revenue: $1.72 billion vs $1.7 billion estimate
Net Loss: $31.5 million
EPS: loss of $0.11 per share vs average estimate of $0.02 per share profit

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