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No word on if Charter's debt restructuring will affect cable customers
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Charter Communications, the largest cable TV provider in Hall County, is seeking outside help in an effort to restructure its bond debt.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Moody’s Investors Service lowered its credit rating on Charter. The ratings agency cut its rating to "Ca" from "Caa2." Both are noninvestment grade ratings.

The agency said it believes a default is imminent and bankruptcy is likely for the company in 2009. The impact on local cable service was not known and calls to the company were not returned.

In a news release, Charter announced Friday it has asked its financial advisor, Lazard LLC, to initiate discussions with the company’s bondholders about financial alternatives to improve the company’s balance sheet.

"We believe engaging in discussions with our bondholders, aimed at improving our capital structure and enhancing our financial flexibility, is in the company’s and our customers’ best interests," said Neil Smit, president and chief executive officer. "In the third quarter 2008, revenues increased 7.3 percent, and net customer additions increased more than 50 percent year over year."

Charter noted that its cash on hand and cash equivalents as of Dec. 10 was in excess of $900 million, which is available to pay operating costs and expenses.

However, it is not enough to make payments on a reported $21 billion in debt.

A published report in The Wall Street Journal said the company’s options included the possibility of selling off some of its assets.

Charter, the fourth largest cable operator in the U.S., serves approximately 5.6 million customers in 28 states. The company’s chairman and largest shareholder is Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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