At Home at risk

At Home Corp., a high-speed cable partner with Rogers, Cogeco and Shaw, will be in jeopardy if it can’t maintain its Nasdaq stock exchange listing, according to auditor’s statements the company filed to U.S. securities regulators.

In a report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, auditors said there is “substantial doubt about its ability to continued as a going concern.”

Alison Bowman, spokesperson for the Redwood City, Calif.-based company, said Tuesday that At Home is working with its cable partners in Canada and other locations to ensure that no customer service is interrupted.

“We have a partnership with them (the cable partners) and our plan is to continue operations and weather the cash crisis,” Bowman said. “It’s tough to predict what will happen on a day-to-day basis, but the opinion that the auditors gave out was nothing that wasn’t discussed before.”

Bowman explained that, in March, At Home filed an annual report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In April, the company announced it was facing a “cash-crunch” and Bowman said the company planned on refinancing assets and look at cost-cutting measures. A following report included auditors’ comments.

“What was reflected in the auditors’ opinion, it didn’t talk about any new news and it didn’t talk about anything that wasn’t said before,” she said. “Our customer is the cable company and we have a very good relationship with them and we are working with them through this time to make sure that the customer experience remains undisrupted.”

Shaw relies on At Home for about 510,000 customers and Rogers has about 380,000 At Home customers in Canada.

Officials from Cogeco, which doesn’t rely as heavily on At Home with only 85,000 Ontario customers and no Quebec customers, say that while they are not worried about the service, they are always prepared.

“From a strictly technical standpoint, we don’t expect any disruption in service,” said Denis Belanger, vice-president of engineering and development at Cogeco Cable. “As far as I am concerned, it is business as usual for the moment. I am not saying we are not going to put in place some safety measures.”

Belanger said Cogeco already controls much of its cable modems and offers a platform independently for office services.

“The architecture we already have in place can be expanded to get the control of 100 per cent of what At Home provides for us,” he said. “You never know, but we don’t expect anything to happen from a service standpoint. We are ensuring there won’t be any interruption of service and we don’t expect that, from a service standpoint, At Home will experience any service difficulties in the future.”

Mark Quigley, Internet analyst for Yankee Group in Ottawa, said he doesn’t think there will be any emergency situations either.

“Presumably, if they do go into bankruptcy, it will be Chapter 11 and they will be given the opportunity to go in and restructure,” he said. “The company does have a number of rather large friends and these companies are somewhat dependent on the company continuing and going forward. I suspect that all of them do not have plans in place that would enable them to immediately switch At Home off.”

Quigley doesn’t believe these problems can be tied to problems and cuts other companies have experienced recently. Earlier this week, Milton, Ont.-based Look Communications announced that it would lay off 125 employees.

“Look had it’s own problems from day one,” Quigley said. “If you look at the services provided by these companies, particularly on the Internet side, I don’t think you are going to find anyone who is going to say that the Internet is dead. We are still seeing growth and I think that is going to continue.”

He added that the products and services that At Home and other companies offer are going to become more important as time goes on because of the increasing demand for convergence of content.

“The unfortunate part is that we are not quite at that point yet,” Quigley said.

With files from Stacy Cowley/IDG News Service, New York Bureau

At Home Corp., in Redwood City, California, is at

Cogeco in Quebec is at

Shaw Communications Inc., with offices across Canada, is at

Rogers Cablesystems Inc, in Toronto is at

Yankee Group in Ottawa is at