CenturyLink (CTL) is proudly announcing the fact that it is officially "one of the first major carriers in North America and only one of six companies in the world to receive a TL 9000 NOC certification". This is a significant achievement for a tech stock. The company is up over 7% this year and offers a $0.73 dividend (7.23% yield). There appears to be a lot to like here and CenturyLink's recent happenings only make the stock more appealing. Below, I will examine how CenturyLink's new TL 9000 NOC certification could impact investors.
Essentially what this means is that the company's Network Event Management Center (NEMC) is one of the best network management systems that are currently available. TL 9000 is an association that aims to ensure that the standards in network management and other service are incredibly high. This makes life easier for everyone by ensuring that businesses are able to provide their clients with the best services possible. The idea is that companies with this certification are devoted to quality improvements in their network management systems which will benefit all who use the system.
Although this is significant news that indicates that CenturyLink is providing a service that outstrips that of its competitors in the country, people seem unwilling to back the stock. Perhaps this is on the basis that the company's net income dropped substantially from 2010 to 2011 ($948,000 to $573,000), making people less likely to invest in the company. Still its gross profits are climbing steadily, especially when consider the huge jump it took from its March 2001 announcement ($953 million) to March 2012 ($4.5 billion).
I think that this certification, although it may seem like a small step for the tech stock, is an important factor to keep in mind. Investors should be aware of how the stocks in their portfolio are doing better than the competition. Network management is an integral part of a stock's success on the market, and it is therefore essential that improvements be made constantly and close attention be paid to quality.
Some of CenturyLink's competitors are also aware of the importance of maintaining the best networks possible in order to keep customers happy and coming back for more. Alcatel-Lucent (ALU), for example, was recently given the Best Networking Vendor of the Year Award at the Network Innovations Awards 2012 ceremony. You see, TL 9000 NOC certification is not the only way for a company to make itself known as a leader in the arena of network development (another reason perhaps why CenturyLink cannot be expected to spike too much following the afore mentioned news). A big part of the judging for this reward is based on the company's networking management capabilities. As you can see, based on the fact that Alcatel won this ward, it makes this company one of CenturyLink's strongest competitors in the area of networking and specifically in networking management. Alcatel was up at the end of January but has since dropped off significantly. However, there was a slight increase in the stocks share prices in June, which is when the company won the award.
Sprint Nextel (S) is set to launch a new networking management system, but there seems to be some trouble on the company's route to success. Consider, for example, the fact that Sprint recently recalled a large number of employees who had been assigned to Ericsson (ERIC) in a networking management agreement. This to me seems to indicate that the company is having trouble and I suspect that it is not entirely happy with the way that Ericsson has handled the incoming 4G LTE network that Sprint is set to launch. Although Sprint denies that there are problems with Ericsson and, by implications, with its management of the new network, still think that this is a move that indicates instability in the company at the very least. That being said, Sprint's shares have climbed consistently since the beginning of the year (up over 36%) with a bit of a dip in May, making it a very real threat to CenturyLink's position as a leading network provider.
There could be a significant problem that faces CenturyLink as well as its competitors. Recently, Verizon (VZ) made a claim that "a Federal Communications Commission rule that prevents Internet service providers from blocking or slowing the flow of Web content to homes and businesses violates the constitutional rights of broadband network owners", thereby affecting its ability to provide a good networking management system. This situation will obviously also affect CenturyLink's other competitors, such as AT&T (T) and Frontier Communications (FTR). At least this is a problem that will affect all companies in this domain across the board.
Aside from this possible scare, CenturyLink seems to be on the right track. I believe CenturyLink's healthy numbers and healthy news will reward investors this quarter. If its share price hits its ceiling, as it's so close to its 52 week high, you can always bank on the dividend.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.