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Global Crossing Recovery Hits Speed Bump




Four months out of bankruptcy, Global Crossing Ltd. is taking a detour on its road to recovery. The carrier disclosed in April the access charges it paid to local phone companies were greater than it had estimated in its financial statements.

Global Crossing revealed it may have to restate financial results for 2002 and 2003 depending on the outcome of an investigation into the accounting issue.

The company says a preliminary assessment indicates it underestimated its accrued cost-of-access liability at year-end 2003 by approximately $50 million to $80 million. Global Crossing’s “cost of access operating expenses” totaled $1.915 billion in 2003.

Following the announcement, Global Crossing disclosed it had been notified its shares may be delisted from the NASDAQ National Market due to noncompliance with filing requirements. NASDAQ representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

Lawsuits have been filed against Global Crossing officers on behalf of investors, alleging the executives depicted a false picture of company financials. Shares of Global Crossing have declined precipitously since the beginning of the year. On May 24, shares closed at $14.09, down from $34.50 Jan. 2. Global Crossing emerged from bankruptcy in December, nearly two years after collapsing under $12.4 billion in debt.

In March, along with reporting its 2003 earnings, the company provided guidance for 2004. Global Crossing projected annual revenue of between $2.55 billion and $2.7 billion, down from $2.93 billion in 2003. Including stock compensation expense, the company projected an EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) loss of $130 million to $160 million.

A Global Crossing spokeswoman says the guidance is no longer valid. “Any guidance we gave when we put out Q4 earnings must be disregarded due to our review into our cost-of-access liabilities and possible restatements,” she explains.

Despite the accounting setback and sinking stock price, the company also has been the subject of some positive headlines in recent months. On May 19, Global Crossing announced reaching an agreement with an affiliate of Singapore Technologies Telemedia to secure a $100 million bridge loan. ST Telemedia acquired a 61.5 percent stake in Global Crossing as part of its massive restructuring.

Besides ST Telemedia, some big-name investors also are backing Global Crossing. Carlos Slim, the richest man in Latin America, and his family are seeking to acquire an interest in the company exceeding 10 percent but less than 20 percent, according to a May 18 filing with the Vermont Public Service Board. In March, Global Crossing acknowledged Slim and his family acquired a 9.1 percent share of common equity in the company, or 5 percent of total equity.

The Slim family has a controlling interest in Telefonos de Mexico, SA (Telmex), the biggest phone company in Mexico, and numerous other telecommunications companies in Latin America, according to the filing; the family also owns roughly a 13 percent stake in MCI.

“Having major investors of the Slim entities’ significant stature and reputation would enhance Global Crossing’s ability to attract capital investment,” the filing states.

Slim, who (according to Forbes Magazine) has a net worth of $13.9 billion, is not the only billionaire with a stake in Global Crossing. Billionaire Richard Rainwater, of Fort Worth, Texas, bought 2.61 million shares of Global Crossing stock for $24.4 million between March 17 and May 11, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Rainwater owns a 13.6 percent stake in Global Crossing, according to the filing, and purchased 318,000 shares for $13.68 a share the day the company disclosed the accounting mishap.

Links

Global Crossing Ltd.       www.globalcrossing.com
Nasdaq National Market       www.nasdaq.com
Securities and Exchange Commission  www.sec.gov
Telmex www.telmex.com

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