CenturyTel / Embarq Merger Could Ignite More Deals Between Telecoms

Oct. 28, 2008 7:15 AM ETEQ-OLD, LUMN, WINMQ, FYBR, CNSL1 Comment

CenturyTel Inc. (CTL) will acquire rival Embarq Corp. (EQ) in an $11.6 billion deal that could kick-start a flurry of mergers among rural-regional telephone carriers.

The deal should be good for the two companies, said Jeff Kagan, an independent analyst who is well known for his coverage of the telecom sector.

“There has been a lot of talk recently about Embarq wanting to be acquired,” Kagan told MarketWatch.com. “However, the financial crisis that is on the front page every day made finding a partner difficult. That may have lowered the price Embarq hoped to get. CenturyTel saw an opportunity and jumped in to acquire Embarq. Timing was on CenturyTel’s side in this deal.”

The all-stock deal – announced Monday – calls for CenturyTel to pay $5.8 billion for Embarq, and to assume $5.8 billion of that company’s debt, Network World reported. The buyout will knit together two phone companies with a local/regional focus that cater chiefly to customers in less-populated parts of the country, MarketWatch reported. The new combined venture will have operations in 33 states and combined revenue of more than $8.8 billion.

The acquisition “makes great strategic sense,” Glen F. Post III, the chairman and chief executive officer of CenturyTel, who will assume the CEO’s mantle with the merged company, said during a conference call Monday. “It diversifies our revenue and provides us with expanded networks, expertise and financial resources to build long-term shareholder value.”

U.S. telecom carriers have spent at least $150 billion on acquisitions during the past three years as they bulk up to slash operating expenses – and to match up better against new rivals emerging from such businesses as cable TV and wireless communications. Already this year, Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) agreed to buy Alltel Corp. for $5.9 billion in cash and $22.2 billion in debt, a

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William (Bill) Patalon III is the Managing Editor and Senior Research Analyst for Money Morning (http://www.moneymorning.com/), and is also the Managing Editor for The Money Map Report. Before he moved into the investment-research business in December 2005, Patalon spent 22 years as a journalist, most of it covering financial news as a reporter, columnist, and editor that included stints with Gannett Co. Inc., and The Baltimore Sun. It was Patalon’s work covering Eastman Kodak Co., during the last half of the 1990s that solidified his reputation as one of the nation’s top analytical business journalists. With his award-winning reports on Kodak’s competitive travails, he consistently scooped his competitors in the national business media. His chronicles of Kodak’s turnaround efforts took him to China, Japan, Silicon Valley, New York, Washington, D.C., and even Hollywood. Patalon’s work has appeared in Kiplinger’s personal finance magazine, USA Today, and The South China Morning Post, among other publications. A winner of approximately two-dozen journalism awards – including top honors from The Associated Press and the prestigious Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW). Patalon is also the co-author of the Prentice Hall book, Contrarian Investing: How to Buy and Sell When Others Won’t and Make Money Doing it. Before taking over as managing editor of Money Morning, he served as the editor of The Rebound Report, an investment newsletter focusing on turnaround stocks. Patalon has a BA in Print Journalism from Penn State University, and an MBA in finance from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He lives near Baltimore.

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