By Liana B. Baker
(Reuters) - Cable company Time Warner Cable Inc agreed to buy U.S. fiber optic network provider DukeNet Communications for $600 million in cash in a deal that will boost the cable company's business services unit.
DukeNet is a regional fiber optic network in North Carolina and South Carolina and five other states, co-owned by Duke Energy Corp, and Alinda Capital Partners, which each have a 50 percent stake.
The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014.
One Time Warner Cable investor, Chris Marangi, portfolio manager at Gabelli & Co, said he liked the $600 million deal even if it "does not move the needle."
"It's an investment in an area that has very high returns for them," Marangi said.
In the second quarter, Time Warner Cable's business services revenue increased more than 20 percent, making it the company's fastest growing area.
Time Warner Cable's chief operating officer of business services, Phil Meeks, said in a statement that the deal will help the company expand its fiber business in the Carolinas.
It will allow Time Warner Cable to deliver more network services to cell towers, a spokesman said.
Time Warner Cable ranks second to Comcast Corp in the U.S. cable market with about 12 million customers and has attracted takeover interest from John Malone's Liberty Media Corp.
Malone, whose media holding company has an investment in cable provider Charter Communications Inc, made an offer for Time Warner Cable over the summer but it was rejected, Reuters previously reported.
"It is interesting that Time Warner Cable is engaging in M&A. You wonder whether management feels a compulsion to be a little bit more active and show they are creating value on the deal side," said Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan.
Time Warner Cable shares fell $1.51 or 1.3 percent on Monday.
(Additional reporting by Sinead Carew and Soham Chatterjee; Editing by Don Sebastian and Leslie Gevirtz)