Debt Concerns Spur Downgrade


Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown cable and satellite analyst Karim Zia downgraded his rating on Charter Communications Inc. from "strong buy" to "buy," citing the MSO's highly leveraged balance sheet and his cautious stance on the overall cable industry. Charter, which has debt of about 9.1 times year-end 2002 estimated cash flow, is one of the most highly leveraged MSOs in the country. Although the MSO has sufficient liquidity and should have no problem with meeting its debt obligations, Zia wrote that the high leverage — coupled with lower subscriber-growth expectations — forced him to reduce his rating on the company. He maintained his $18 price target. Charter closed at $10.51 on April 2, down 85 cents.