AirGate PCS ( PCSAl), a PCS affiliate of Sprint, lost about a quarter of its value Monday after saying it faced a $735 million charge to write down a unit that it expects to seek bankruptcy protection.

AirGate expects its cash-strapped iPCS unit will be forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. However, AirGate said, iPCS's lenders, noteholders and creditors don't have a lien or encumbrance on assets of AirGate, and the company believes that its operations will continue independently regardless of the outcome of the restructuring.

The company also told the Securities and Exchange Commission it is delaying its 10-K filing to complete its year-end financial review and for the completion of its audit.

The Atlanta-based company said it is still analyzing balances owed by Sprint ( FON), its parent company, along with its subscribers as it considers possible adjustments to its earnings statement.

The announcement puts AirGate in a somewhat precarious situation, prompting creditors and lenders to mull issuing a default notice. In that scenario, the company would have 30 days in the case of its credit facility and 60 days in the case of its notes in order to rectify the situation.

AirGate is expected to file with the SEC by Jan. 14, 2003, the company said in a release. The shares were down 20 cents, or 24%, at 65 cents in recent trading on the Nasdaq.