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By Anjali Athavaley and Aparajita Saxena
June 22 (Reuters) - Shares of Altice USA Inc rose as much as 7.2 percent in their debut on Thursday, giving the cable operator a market capitalization of $23.71 billion as it prepares for U.S. expansion.
The 63.9-million share offering raised $1.9 billion after being priced at $30 per share, within the expected range of $27 to $31 per share. That makes it the second-largest U.S. initial public offering this year behind messaging app Snap Inc’s $3.9 billion offering in March.
Altice USA’s IPO is viewed as a means for its founder, Franco-Israeli billionaire Patrick Drahi, to expand his U.S. cable empire by giving the company public stock it can then use as currency for new acquisitions.
The company, which Netherlands-based Altice NV put together by acquiring Cablevision Systems and Suddenlink Communications, is the fourth-biggest U.S. cable provider, with 4.9 million customers.
Shares touched a high of $32.17 before paring gains to $31.98 in midday trading.
Drahi told reporters at a meeting in May he considered cable expansion a priority over getting into the wireless business. But one hurdle Altice could face is that there are few U.S. cable assets out there to buy.
Altice USA’s Chief Executive Dexter Goei said in an interview on Thursday that there were no specific targets currently on his radar.
“Its really about being ready for tomorrow,” he said. “We’re not the type of people to be kicking down doors. There needs to be a confluence of minds if something is going to happen.”
Some analysts have said that Altice USA could harbor ambitions to one day take on large acquisition targets such as privately held Cox Communications, which has long said it does not want to sell.
“Hopefully, they will consider us as partners if they choose to do it,” Goei said. “But it’s not going to be the driver of the success of our business.”
Following the IPO, 75.2 percent of the company’s shares will be held by its parent, Altice NV, which translates to 98.5 percent of the voting power.
Altice USA, which reported a net loss of $76.2 million for the three months ended March 31, expects to use proceeds from the offering to pay down debt of nearly $21 billion.
It is the second U.S. cable operator to go public in the last five years. WideOpenWest Inc raised about $310 million in its IPO last month, which was priced below the expected range. (Additional reporting by Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Tom Brown)