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Charter to sell some cable assets

For $765 million, cable television provider Charter Communications says it will sell cable television systems serving some 235,000 customers in six states to Atlantic Broadband.

Charter Communications said it would sell cable television systems that serve some 235,000 customers in six states to Atlantic Broadband for about $765 million in cash.

The deal, announced Wednesday, involves systems that serve Miami Beach, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New York and West Virginia, and includes approximately 79,000 digital and 33,000 high-speed data customers, the company said.

"Proceeds from this cash sale will be used to repay bank debt and fund future capital expenditures," Charter CEO Carl Vogel said in a statement.

The sale comes as Charter, the third-largest cable television provider in the United States behind Cox Communications and AOL Time Warner, seeks to put a long list of troubles behind it. The company has been stung by declining cable television enrollment, some $19 billion in debt and a federal investigation into alleged accounting fraud.

Charter has been selling off nonstrategic assets to address its debt load, having previously announced the sale of a system in Port Orchard, Wash., for $91 million. In August, the company abandoned plans to refinance $1.7 billion in debt, citing market conditions.

Charter reported about 6.54 million customers as of June 30, 2003, down from 6.78 million a year earlier. Its broadband unit has been growing, however, adding nearly 500,000 new subscribers over the same period, from 870,000 to 1.38 million.

The company has blamed overall subscriber declines on competition with satellite TV and also new customer disconnect policies.

Charter has also been dogged by legal troubles, with a federal grand jury in July indicting four former top executives on charges that they defrauded investors by inflating revenue and customer numbers.

Charter, founded in 1993 to provide cable television access, employs 16,700 people and is headquartered in St. Louis, Mo. Its chairman is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.