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AT&T swaps cable systems for cash

AT&T Broadband takes a small step toward cleaning up its balance sheet by selling off several of its cable TV systems for more than $2.5 billion in cash.

    AT&T Broadband, which exited fiscal 2000 with more than $28 billion in long-term debt, took a small step toward cleaning up its balance sheet Monday by selling off several of its cable TV systems for more than $2.5 billion in cash.

    AT&T shares moved up 88 cents to close at $22.88 Monday.

    Charter Communications shelled out $1.77 billion and traded a cable system in Sebastian, Fla., to AT&T for a handful of cable systems in Missouri, Alabama, Nevada and a small portion of Northern California. The cable systems serve more than 563,000 cable TV customers.

    AT&T Broadband sold another cable TV system in Missouri to Mediacom Communications for $309 million in cash. The system serves customers in Columbia, Jefferson City and Springfield, Mo.

    "These transactions are important steps in our strategic plan to create large clusters of customers in major metropolitan markets," Dan Somers, chief executive of AT&T Broadband, said in a statement. "And they help us to remove more debt from our balance sheet."

    The company also unloaded a cable system serving 115,000 subscribers in Baltimore, Md. ,to Comcast for $518 million in cash.

    AT&T Broadband, which will become an independent company trading under its own ticker symbol later this year, held the most debt of any of AT&T's business units. The parent company had more than $65 billion in long-term debt at year's end, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    In October, AT&T unveiled the details of a massive restructuring plan that includes spinning off its wireless and broadband divisions and issuing a tracking stock for its consumer long-distance business.