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|CCO HOLDINGS LLC filed this Form 10-Q on 10/27/2017|
We continue to evaluate the deployment of our cash on hand and anticipated future free cash flow including to invest in our business growth and other strategic opportunities, including mergers and acquisitions as well as distributions to our parent company for stock repurchases and dividends. Charter's target leverage remains at 4 to 4.5 times, and up to 3.5 times at the Charter Operating level. We may increase the total amount of our indebtedness to maintain leverage within Charter's target leverage range. During the three and nine months ended September 30, 2017, Charter purchased approximately 9.5 million and 21.9 million shares, respectively, of Charter Class A common stock for approximately $3.5 billion and $7.6 billion, respectively. As of September 30, 2017, Charter had remaining board authority to purchase an additional $5.2 billion of Charter’s Class A common stock without taking into account shares or units that may be purchased from A/N. Charter is not obligated to acquire any particular amount of common stock, and the timing of any purchases that may occur cannot be predicted and will largely depend on market conditions and other potential uses of capital. Purchases may include open market purchases, tender offers or negotiated transactions. To the extent such purchases occur, CCO Holdings and its subsidiaries are the primary source for funding such purchases through distributions to their parent companies. As possible acquisitions, swaps or dispositions arise, we actively review them against our objectives including, among other considerations, improving the operational efficiency, clustering, product development or technology capabilities of our business and achieving appropriate return targets, and we may participate to the extent we believe these possibilities present attractive opportunities. However, there can be no assurance that we will actually complete any acquisitions, dispositions or system swaps, or that any such transactions will be material to our operations or results.
In December 2016, Charter and A/N entered into a letter agreement (the "Letter Agreement") that requires A/N to sell to Charter or to Charter Holdings, on a monthly basis, a number of shares of Charter Class A common stock or Charter Holdings common units that represents a pro rata participation by A/N and its affiliates in any repurchases of shares of Charter Class A common stock from persons other than A/N effected by Charter during the immediately preceding calendar month, at a purchase price equal to the average price paid by Charter for the shares repurchased from persons other than A/N during such immediately preceding calendar month. A/N and Charter both have the right to terminate or suspend the pro rata repurchase arrangement on a prospective basis once Charter or Charter Holdings have repurchased shares of Class A common stock or Charter Holdings common units from A/N and its affiliates for an aggregate purchase price of $537 million which threshold has been reached. Charter Holdings purchased from A/N 1.4 million Charter Holdings common units at an average price per unit of $355.83, or $493 million during the three months ended September 30, 2017, and 2.7 million Charter Holdings common units at an average price per unit of $341.49, or $922 million during the nine months ended September 30, 2017.
Free Cash Flow
Free cash flow decreased $411 million and increased $514 million during the three and nine months ended September 30, 2017, respectively, compared to the corresponding prior periods in 2016 due to the following (dollars in millions).
Limitations on Distributions
Distributions by us and our subsidiaries to a parent company for payment of principal on parent company notes are restricted under indentures and credit facilities governing our indebtedness, unless there is no default under the applicable indenture and credit facilities, and unless each applicable subsidiary’s leverage ratio test is met at the time of such distribution. As of September 30, 2017, there was no default under any of these indentures or credit facilities, and each subsidiary met its applicable leverage ratio tests based on September 30, 2017 financial results. Such distributions would be restricted, however, if any such subsidiary fails to meet these tests at the time of the contemplated distribution. There can be no assurance that they will satisfy these tests at the