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Windstream CFO: Dark Fiber Assets Available for Potential Sale

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Another big sale or sales could be on the horizon for Windstream, including dark fiber assets.

Windstream sold its hosting unit to TierPoint a year ago, and this summer exchanged its remaining equity stake in Communications Sales & Leasing (CS&L), a real estate investment trust (REIT) and Windstream spinoff, to reduce debt.

Windstream's Bob GundermanIn the second quarter, Windstream finished the transfer of all of its shares in CS&L in a debt-for-equity exchange to retire about $672 million in debt. Over the last 12 months, the company has reduced its debt by $740 million.

During the recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2016 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, Bob Gunderman, Windstream’s CFO, said remaining assets provide future flexibility for cash returns.

“Well, in the original (CS&L) transaction when we spun our copper and fiber lines, we did retain 20-25 percent of those copper and fiber assets, so that’s future flexibility if we ever chose to do something there,” he said. “We have pockets of markets where we have dark fiber that potentially could be available for transactions over time, nothing I’m prepared to go into, material numbers or anything like that. But it is future flexibility that we look at as possible ways to unlock value and maybe help with some of the deleveraging goals going forward.”

Windstream will have more to report as “things kind of play out,” Gunderman said.{ad}

“But we look at that as, hey, if you’ve got a market where our five-year plan does not call for significant sales into that market or capacity needs, and it’s just going to be sitting there, why not look at activating that through a dark fiber sale or some other type of transaction, and drive some cash returns on that?” he queried.

A potential sale or sales is something Windstream actively thinks about, Gunderman said.

“We’ve not done anything substantial, so it’s just future flexibility that we maintain and something that we’re focused on, but nothing significant right now that we’re actioning,” he said.

For the second quarter, Windstream reported $1.5 million in profit, and $1.36 billion in revenue. That compares to a $111 million loss, and $1.42 billion in revenue for the same quarter in 2015.


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