BANKRUPTCY BEHIND IT--ALONG with about half of its former debt load--Charter Communications is striding toward what has been unfamiliar territory for the fourth-largest U.S. cable operator: Growth.
When it was the most highly leveraged company in cable--with a debt-to-cash flow ratio of about 10 times--Charter had to tread cautiously.
Now, with a stronger balance sheet--a 5 times leverage ratio and positive free cash flow of $135 million in the third quarter alone--Charter can focus (and spend) on new products and services.
St. Louis-based Charter emerged from a bankruptcy reorganization on Nov. 30, 2009, having shaved about $8 billion of debt and pumping in $3 billion in new equity.
"If you think about the narrow margin for error with that type of leverage, it …