Reuters is reporting that Charter Communications is about to declare bankruptcy. The news agency did not say when Charter might make the decision, nor did it specify what form of bankruptcy Charter might choose.
The company’s most likely options include filing for Chapter 11 protection as it reorganizes, or a so-called pre-packaged bankruptcy, in which the company would negotiate directly with its investors. Full liquidation under Chapter 7 of the U.S. bankruptcy code has never been one of the options being speculated about.
Two weeks ago, Reuters reported that Charter had hired a law firm (Kirkland & Ellis) and an investment bank (Lazard) to investigate its bankruptcy options.
A spokesman for Charter Communications declined comment.
Chairman Paul Allen built Charter using borrowed money. The company has always had to juggle its debt. In 2008, the company made several moves to buy or exchange debt coming due.
Still, for all of its maneuvering, Charter has been having a difficult time managing its debt load, which exceeds $20 billion. Its situation has made it a common subject of speculation that it might be sold (story here), with Time Warner Cable frequently mentioned as a possible acquirer.
And despite reporting in its recent quarterly financials that it has been generating greater cash flow, the company missed a $73.7 million interest payment in mid-January (story here).
Charter’s stock through the first three quarters of 2008 had been trading between $1 and a high of $1.59. It began dropping in mid-September as debt negotiations dragged on. It was at $0.08 at midday today.
Last week, Charter laid claim to the fastest residential Internet service with the launch of a 60 Mbps service in its hometown of St. Louis (story here). Charter is using DOCSIS 3.0 technology for its Ultra60 service in the St. Louis metropolitan area and plans on rolling out the faster service in additional, unannounced markets.