03.30.2009 04:55 PM
Charter Files for Chapter 11

ST. LOUIS, MO.: Shares of Charter Communications continued to free fall after the cable company filed for bankruptcy Friday. Charter filed for Chapter 11 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

Charter, (NASDAQ; CHTR), the nation’s fourth largest-cable operator, warned in February it would file for Chapter 11 after reaching an agreement with investors on restructuring debt. The restructure will be led by Gregory Doody, who previously led similar strategies for a California energy company and an Alabama health-care provider.

By the end of last year, Charter had $21.7 billion in debt that it could no longer service. An agreement negotiated with bondholders to invest $3 billion is expected ultimately to reduce debt by $8 billion. The reduction will cut annual interest payments by around $830 million and boost cash, the company said. Operations are expected to continue uninterrupted.

“Charter expects that cash on hand and cash from operating activities will be adequate to fund its projected cash needs as it proceeds with its financial restructuring and therefore does not intend to seek debtor-in-possession financing,” it said in the statement announcing the bankruptcy. “In conjunction with today’s filing, the company also filed a variety of customary motions to continue to support its employees, customers and vendors during the financial restructuring process. The company has filed motions seeking permission to continue employee wage and benefits programs and honor current customer programs without interruption, and to pay trade creditor balances and fees to local franchise authorities incurred before and after the filing in full and in the normal course.”

Common stock shareholders will be completely wiped out in the restructure. Charter founder Paul Allen’s 51 percent stake will be eliminated, but he will get a 7 percent equity piece in the reorganized company and retain a 35 percent voting share.

Charter has around 5.5 million subscribers and employs around 16,500 people. It expects to emerge from bankruptcy by August. -- Deborah D. McAdams 

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