Cablevision unveils quarterly dividend

First ever for cable operator

The Dolan family that controls Cablevision continued to go on the offensive Friday, unveiling the cable operator's first-ever quarterly dividend.

The news came Friday, at the end of a week that saw CEO James Dolan and other top executives meet with the company's biggest shareholders, fulfilling a recent promise to seek their input on ways to bring Cablevision's stock price into closer sync with its strong operating momentum. Asset sales, spinoffs, dividends and stock buybacks are among the options the company has mentioned.

Meanwhile, late in the week, a regulatory filing showed that well-known activist shareholder Harbinger Capital acquired 11.5 million Cablevision shares during the second quarter. This made it the firm's fifth-largest outside investor with a 4.9% economic stake.

Wall Street observers immediately suggested that the Dolans' sudden openness to shareholder input stems in part from Harbinger's share purchases. While the family's control of Cablevision "prevents any major hostile actions, we believe the Dolans may be trying to head off a public 'war-of-words' in the media," Pali Research analyst Rich Greenfield said in a blog post.

The quarterly dividend announced Friday is a first for Cablevision, which previously gave out only a one-time special dividend.

The company's board declared a dividend of 10 cents per share. It is payable Sept. 18 to shareholders of record at the close of business on Aug. 26.

Industry executives have signaled interest in buying all or part of Cablevision's Rainbow Media cable networks unit.

Liberty Media recently renewed its previously stated interest in looking at the operation. And News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch recently suggested the Dolans would likely ask for more money than he'd be willing to spend, but said AMC or other select networks could interest his conglomerate.

Cablevision shares closed up 2.6% on Friday at $32.12.
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