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Adelphia Communications Corp., the No. 5 U.S. cable operator, won court approval to auction assets to raise money for creditors seeking more than $3 trillion.

Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Adelphia plans to sell its assets in seven regional cable groups averaging about 750,000 subscribers each.

Comcast Corp. and Time Warner have said they may make a joint bid for the assets, which have an estimated value of $17 billion to $20 billion. Carl Vogel, chief executive of Charter Communications Corp., said last month that the fourth-biggest U.S. cable operator might bid on the assets.

"Bids will be entertained for a sale of the company as a whole or a series of transactions involving designated clusters of assets," Marc Abrams, a lawyer representing Adelphia, said in court papers. No auction date has been set, Abrams said.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber approved the auction rules at a hearing that was closed to the public. Adelphia lawyers asked Gerber to seal the courtroom.

Adelphia said in August the auction process should be complete by the end of the year.

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