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Comcast seen close to pulling its $45-billion bid to buy Time Warner Cable

Comcast Corp. looks to pull plug on its $45-billion purchase of Time Warner Cable

Comcast Corp. is close to pulling the plug on its $45-billion purchase of Time Warner Cable, recognizing that it has little chance of overcoming stiff resistance from regulators, lawmakers and consumers who have mobilized to block the deal.

The two cable giants declined to comment.

However, news organizations, including Bloomberg News and CNBC, which is owned by Comcast, are reporting that an announcement could come as soon as Friday.

Wall Street appeared to signal some relief. Shares of Comcast rose as much as 2% during regular trading. Time Warner Cable shares fell less than 1%.

The deal began unraveling after the company learned Wednesday from federal regulators that the government was gearing up to challenge the plan to combine the nation’s two largest cable companies. The result would have been a colossus with nearly 30 million cable TV and high-speed Internet customers in the nation, including 2 million in Southern California.

“It's a bit like an elephant that has been dropped out of an airplane,” Wall Street media analyst Craig Moffett said Thursday. “At around 10,000 feet, it is technically still alive. But it is falling fast ... and its odds of survival are pretty low when it hits the ground.”

Philadelphia-based Comcast had been interested in acquiring N.Y.-based Time Warner Cable to add the lucrative markets of Los Angeles, New York and Dallas to its reach.

Comcast already serves Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Sacramento. The deal would have made Comcast the dominant provider in California with 4 million subscribers, including 2 million in Southern California.

In addition to providing service for current Time Warner Cable subscribers, Comcast also would scoop up about 300,000 homes in the Los Angeles region that now subscribe to Charter Communications.

The $45-billion cable deal was unveiled 14 months ago -- and has been met with powerful opposition, with some concerned that Comcast would be too powerful -- particularly as the main provider of high-speed Internet service in the country.

Opponents have long argued the mega-merger would stifle competition. Opposition had grown in recent weeks with influential lawmakers, state regulators and consumer groups rallying to try to block the deal. Programmers also have lobbied behind the scenes, fearful that Comcast would have the power to set pricing for programming as well as the rates that advertisers pay for commercial spots on cable TV.

Los Angeles Times staff writer Yvonne Villarreal contributed to this report.

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