Uniti Group Inc. (UNIT)

FORM 10-K | Annual Report
Mar. 18, 2019 4:22 PM
|
About: Uniti Group Inc. (UNIT)View as PDF
Uniti Group Inc. (Form: 10-K, Received: 03/18/2019 16:24:59)

Table of Contents

  

 

 

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018

OR

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934 For the transition period from _____ to _____

Commission File Number 001-36708

 

Uniti Group Inc.

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its Charter)

 

 

Maryland

46-5230630

( State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

(I.R.S. Employer
Identification No.)

10802 Executive Center Drive

Benton Building Suite 300

Little Rock, Arkansas

72211

(Address of principal executive offices)

(Zip Code)

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (501) 850-0820

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of each class

Name of each exchange

on which registered

Common Stock, $0.0001 Par Value

The NASDAQ Global Select Market

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.    YES       NO  

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act.    YES       NO  

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.    YES       NO  

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to submit such files).    YES       NO  

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§ 229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of Registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.  

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large accelerated filer

 

  

Accelerated filer

 

 

 

 

 

Non-accelerated filer

 

  

  

Smaller reporting company

 

 

 

 

 

Emerging growth company

 

 

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. 

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).    YES       NO  

The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the Registrant, based on the closing price of the shares of common stock on The NASDAQ Global Select Market on June 30, 2018, was $2,842,783,509

The number of shares of the Registrant’s common stock outstanding as of March 6, 2019 was 183,103,947.

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Portions of the Registrant’s definitive proxy statement relating to the 2019 annual meeting of stockholders are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

 

 

 


Table of Contents

Table of Contents

 

 

 

 

 

Page

PART I

 

 

 

 

Item 1.

 

Business

 

5

Item 1A.

 

Risk Factors

 

13

Item 1B.

 

Unresolved Staff Comments

 

22

Item 2.

 

Properties

 

22

Item 3.

 

Legal Proceedings

 

25

Item 4.

 

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

26

 

 

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

 

 

Item 5.

 

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

27

Item 6.

 

Selected Financial Data

 

29

Item 7.

 

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

 

30

Item 7A.

 

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

 

53

Item 8.

 

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

 

55

Item 9.

 

Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

 

106

Item 9A.

 

Controls and Procedures

 

106

Item 9B.

 

Other Information

 

107

 

 

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

 

 

Item 10.

 

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

 

108

Item 11.

 

Executive Compensation

 

108

Item 12.

 

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

 

108

Item 13.

 

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

 

109

Item 14.

 

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

 

109

 

 

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

 

 

Item 15.

 

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

 

110

Item 16.

 

Form 10-K Summary

 

116

 

 

 

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CAUTIONARY STATEMENT REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

 

This Annual Report on Form 10-K includes forward-looking statements as defined under U.S. federal securities law. Forward-looking statements include all statements that are not historical statements of fact and those regarding our intent, belief or expectations, including, but not limited to, statements regarding: our expectations regarding the effect of Windstream Holdings, Inc.’s (“Windstream Holdings” and together with its subsidiaries, “Windstream”) bankruptcy and Windstream’s performance under its long-term exclusive triple-net lease with us (the “Master Lease”); our expectations with respect to the treatment of the Master Lease in Windstream’s petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code; our expectations regarding the effect of substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern; our expectations regarding the future growth and demand of the telecommunication industry, future financing plans, business strategies, growth prospects, operating and financial performance, and our future liquidity needs and access to capital; expectations regarding the impact and integration of Information Transport Solutions, Inc. (“ITS”), CableSouth Media, LLC (“CableSouth”) and M 2 Connections, including expectations regarding operational synergies with Uniti Towers and Uniti Fiber; expectations regarding settling conversion of our 3% convertible preferred stock in cash upon conversion; expectations regarding the probability of our obligation to pay contingent consideration upon Tower Cloud, Inc.'s ("Tower Cloud") or Hunt's achievement of certain defined operational and financial milestones; expectations regarding future deployment of fiber strand miles and recognition of revenue related thereto; expectations regarding levels of capital expenditures; expectations regarding the deductibility of goodwill for tax purposes; expectations regarding reclassification of accumulated other comprehensive income (loss) related to de rivatives to interest expense; expectations regarding the amortization of intangible assets; expectations regarding the closing of the OpCo-PropCo partnership with Macquarie Infrastructure Partners (“MIP”) and related acquisition of Bluebird Network, LLC (“Bluebird”); expectations regarding the closing of the sale of Uniti Towers’ business in Latin America (the “Towers Disposition”); and expectations regarding the payment of dividends.

 

Words such as "anticipate(s)," "expect(s)," "intend(s)," "plan(s)," "believe(s)," "may," "will," "would," "could," "should," "seek(s)" and similar expressions, or the negative of these terms, are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These statements are based on management's current expectations and beliefs and are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that could lead to actual results differing materially from those projected, forecasted or expected. Although we believe that the assumptions underlying the forward-looking statements are reasonable, we can give no assurance that our expectations will be attained. Factors which could have a material adverse effect on our operations and future prospects or which could cause actual results to differ materially from our expectations include, but are not limited to:

 

 

the future prospects of our largest customer, Windstream Holdings, which, following a finding that it is in default of certain of its debt, on February 25, 2019, filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code;

 

our ability to continue as a going concern if Windstream Holdings were to reject the Master Lease or be unable or unwilling to perform its obligations under the Master Lease;

 

the ability and willingness of our customers to meet and/or perform their obligations under any contractual arrangements entered into with us, including master lease arrangements; 

 

the ability of our customers to comply with laws, rules and regulations in the operation of the assets we lease to them; 

 

the ability and willingness of our customers to renew their leases with us upon their expiration, and the ability to reposition our properties on the same or better terms in the event of nonrenewal or in the event we replace an existing tenant; 

 

our ability to renew, extend or retain our contracts or to obtain new contracts with significant customers (including customers of the businesses that we acquire); 

 

the availability of and our ability to identify suitable acquisition opportunities and our ability to acquire and lease the respective properties on favorable terms or operate and integrate the acquired businesses; 

 

our ability to generate sufficient cash flows to service our outstanding indebtedness; 

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our ability to access debt and equity capital markets; 

 

the impact on our business or the business of our customers as a result of credit rating downgrades, and fluctuating interest rates; 

 

adverse impacts of litigation or disputes involving us or our customers;

 

our ability to retain our key management personnel; 

 

our ability to maintain our status as a real estate investment trust (“REIT”), including as a result of the effects of the recent events with respect to our largest customer, Windstream Holdings;

 

changes in the U.S. tax law and other federal, state or local laws, whether or not specific to REITs, including the impact of the recently enacted U.S. tax reform legislation; 

 

covenants in our debt agreements that may limit our operational flexibility; 

 

the possibility that we may experience equipment failures, natural disasters, cyber attacks or terrorist attacks for which our insurance may not provide adequate coverage; 

 

the risk that we fail to fully realize the potential benefits of or have difficulty in integrating the companies we acquire; 

 

other risks inherent in the communications industry and in the ownership of communications distribution systems, including potential liability relating to environmental matters and illiquidity of real estate investments; 

 

the risk that the agreements regarding the Bluebird acquisition may be modified or terminated prior to expiration or that the conditions to the Bluebird acquisition may not be satisfied;

 

the risk that the agreements regarding the Towers Disposition may be modified or terminated or that the conditions to the Towers Disposition may not be satisfied; and

 

additional factors discussed in Part I, Item 1A “Risk Factors” and Part II, Item 7 “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, as well as those described from time to time in our future reports filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”).

Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this Annual Report. Except in the normal course of our public disclosure obligations, we expressly disclaim any obligation to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements to reflect any change in our expectations or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based.

 

 

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PART I

Item 1. Business.

The Company

 

Uniti Group Inc. (the “Company”, “Uniti”, “we”, “us” or “our”) was incorporated in the state of Maryland on September 4, 2014. Uniti is an independent, internally managed real estate investment trust (“REIT”) engaged in the acquisition and construction of mission critical infrastructure in the communications industry. We are principally focused on acquiring and constructing fiber optic broadband networks, wireless communications towers, copper and coaxial broadband networks and data centers.

On April 24, 2015, we were separated and spun-off (the “Spin-Off”) from Windstream Holdings, Inc. (“Windstream Holdings” and together with its subsidiaries, “Windstream”) pursuant to which Windstream contributed certain telecommunications network assets, including fiber and copper networks and other real estate (the “Distribution Systems”) and a small consumer competitive local exchange carrier (“CLEC”) business (the “Consumer CLEC Business”) to Uniti and Uniti issued common stock and indebtedness and paid cash obtained from borrowings under Uniti’s senior credit facilities to Windstream. In connection with the Spin-Off, we entered into a long-term exclusive triple-net lease (the “Master Lease”) with Windstream, pursuant to which a substantial portion of our real property is leased to Windstream and from which a substantial portion of our leasing revenues are currently derived.

 

Uniti operates as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes. As a REIT, the Company is generally not subject to U.S. federal income taxes on income generated by its REIT operations, which includes income derived from the Master Lease.  We have elected to treat the subsidiaries through which we operate our fiber business, Uniti Fiber, and Talk America Services, LLC, which operates the Consumer CLEC Business (“Talk America”), as taxable REIT subsidiaries (“TRSs”).  TRSs enable us to engage in activities that result in income that does not constitute qualifying income for a REIT.  Our TRSs are subject to U.S. federal, state and local corporate income taxes.

 

The Company operates through a customary up-REIT structure, pursuant to which we hold substantially all of our assets through a partnership, Uniti Group LP, a Delaware limited partnership (the “Operating Partnership”), that we control as general partner. This structure is intended to facilitate future acquisition opportunities by providing the Company with the ability to use common units of the Operating Partnership as a tax-efficient acquisition currency. As of December 31, 2018, we are the sole general partner of the Operating Partnership and own approximately 97.7% of the partnership interests in the Operating Partnership.

 

For the year ended December 31, 2018, we had revenues of $ 1,017.6 million, net income attributable to common shareholders of $ 8.0 million, Funds From Operations (“FFO”) of $ 373.7 million and Adjusted Funds From Operations (“AFFO”) of $ 443.8 million. Both FFO and AFFO are non-GAAP financial measures, which we use to analyze our results. Refer to Part II, Item 7 Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, of this Annual Report for additional information regarding these non-GAAP measures. As of December 31, 2018, we managed our operations in four reportable business segments, which are described in more detail in Note 14 to our consolidated financial statements contained in Part II, Item 8 Financial Statements and Supplementary Data .

 

Business

 

We are an independent, internally-managed REIT engaged in the acquisition and construction of mission critical infrastructure in the communications industry. We manage our operations in four separate lines of business: Uniti Fiber , Uniti Towers , Uniti Leasing and Talk America .

 

Refer to Part II, Item 7 Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Overview—Significant Business Developments, of this Annual Report for additional information regarding significant developments in our business in 2018.

 

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Uniti Fiber

 

Uniti Fiber is a leading provider of infrastructure solutions, including cell site backhaul and small cell for wireless operators and ethernet, wavelengths and dark fiber for telecommunications carriers and enterprises. With Uniti Fiber, our goal is to capitalize on the rising demand by carriers and enterprises for dark fiber, establish ourselves as a proven small-cell systems provider and leverage wholesale enterprise opportunities as well as opportunities through the School and Libraries Program (commonly referred to as E-Rate) administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company. We believe fiber is the mission-critical focal point in the modern communications infrastructure industry and that Uniti Fiber will accelerate our growth and diversification strategy and expand our relationships with high quality national and international wireless carriers.  

 

At December 31, 2018, Uniti Fiber’s revenues under contract were over $1.3 billion, with a network consisting of 1.7 million strand miles of fiber and approximately 18,200 customer connections.  Results for Uniti Fiber are reported in our consolidated financial statements in our Fiber Infrastructure business segment.

 

Uniti Towers

 

Uniti Towers’ primary business is constructing and leasing space on communications towers to wireless service providers and other tenants in a number of other industries. Uniti Towers’ leadership has substantial experience in the telecommunications industry and has been overseeing construction and operation of thousands of wireless towers both domestically and abroad for decades. Uniti Towers provides build-to-suit opportunities using customized master lease agreements designed for long-term carrier partnerships. We believe that our strategy of focusing on fiber and towers through Uniti Fiber and Uniti Towers is highly synergistic and will drive incremental growth opportunities.

 

At December 31, 2018, Uniti Towers’ portfolio consisted of 430 wireless communications towers located in 26 states across the eastern and central regions in the United States, and 498 wireless communications towers in Latin America.  Results for Uniti Towers are reported in our consolidated financial statements in our Towers business segment.

 

On February 19, 2019, the Company announced it had agreed to sell Uniti Towers’ Latin America business to an entity controlled by Phoenix Towers International (“PTI”) for cash consideration of approximately $100 million. PTI will acquire approximately 500 towers located across Mexico, Colombia and Nicaragua. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2019 .

 

Uniti Leasing

 

Uniti Leasing is engaged in acquiring mission-critical communications assets, such as fiber, data centers, next-generation consumer broadband, coaxial and upgradeable copper, and leasing them back to anchor customers on either an exclusive or shared-tenant basis.  Presently, a substantial portion of Uniti Leasing’s revenue is rental revenues from leasing the Distribution Systems to Windstream pursuant to the Master Lease.  We believe our attractive cost of capital and advantaged REIT structure will enable Uniti Leasing to provide creative and tax-efficient solutions to additional customers, including (i) sale leaseback transactions, whereby Uniti Leasing acquires existing infrastructure assets from communications service providers and leases them back on a long-term basis; (ii) capital investment financing, whereby Uniti Leasing offers communications service providers a cost-efficient method of raising funds for discrete capital investments to upgrade or expand their network; and (iii) mergers and acquisitions financing, whereby Uniti Leasing facilitates mergers and acquisition transactions as a capital partner.  Results for Uniti Leasing are reported in our consolidated financial statements in our Leasing business segment.

 

Talk America

 

We conduct the Consumer CLEC Business through Talk America Services, LLC. Talk America provides local telephone, high-speed Internet and long-distance service to approximately 22,500 customers principally located in 17 states across the eastern and central United States. Substantially all of the network assets used to provide these services to customers are contracted through interconnection agreements with other telecommunications carriers.  

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Results for Talk America are reported in our consolidated financial statements in our Consumer CLEC business segment.

 

Industry

 

The current communications infrastructure industry is marked by the growing demand for and use of bandwidth-intensive devices and applications, such as smart devices, real-time and online streaming video, cloud-based applications, social media and mobile broadband. This growth in consumption requires the support of robust communications infrastructure, of which fiber networks and communications towers are critical components. Substantial investments have been made in recent years in fiber networks, lit services and colocation facilities to keep pace with the increased bandwidth use of both enterprise- and consumer-end users. As companies attempt to keep pace with this rapidly evolving business sector, communications infrastructure continues to increase in priority and economic importance. We believe this considerable demand creates tremendous opportunities for us as an acquirer and operator and as a funding source for operators seeking to capitalize on these trends through build outs and acquisitions of infrastructure assets.

 

The wireless communications industry is a prime example of the growing importance of the bandwidth infrastructure industry. As wireless traffic and mobile data consumption continue to grow worldwide, participants in the wireless communications industry are increasing their network capacity through the development of new wireless cell sites and the addition of bandwidth capacity.  Consumers are demanding network quality and coverage, and as a result wireless carriers are making significant capital investments to improve quality, expand their coverage and remain relevant in a highly competitive industry. We expect this continued growth in capital expenditures to generate high demands for wireless towers (including strong growth in long-term tower leasing), tower space and bandwidth infrastructure services.

 

Strategy

 

Our primary goal is to create long-term stockholder value by (i) generating reliable and growing cash flows, (ii) diversifying our tenant and asset base, (iii) paying a dividend, and (iv) maintaining our financial strength and liquidity. To achieve this goal, we employ a business strategy that leverages our first mover advantages in the sector and our strong access to the capital markets. The key components of our business strategy are:

 

Acquire Additional Infrastructure Assets Through Sale Leaseback Transactions

 

We actively seek to acquire communications infrastructure assets from communication service providers and lease these assets back to the communication service providers on a long-term basis. We believe this type of transaction benefits the communication service providers with incremental liquidity which can be used to reduce indebtedness or for other investments, while they continue to focus on their existing business. We will employ a disciplined, opportunistic acquisition strategy and seek to price transactions appropriately based on, among other things, growth opportunities, the mix of assets acquired, length and terms of the lease, and credit worthiness of the tenant.

 

This strategy will also expand our mix of tenants and other real property and will reduce our revenue concentration with Windstream. We expect that this objective will be achieved over time as part of our overall strategy to acquire new distribution systems and other real property within the communications infrastructure industry to further diversify our overall portfolio.

 

Capitalize on the Market Demand for Increased Bandwidth Infrastructure and Performance

 

Bandwidth intensive devices and applications are rapidly fueling worldwide consumption of bandwidth, which in turn fuels a continuously growing demand for stable and secure bandwidth options.  Communications service providers and other enterprises whose services and businesses require substantial amounts of bandwidth are increasingly looking to infrastructure providers to support their bandwidth needs and to expand the reach, performance and security of their networks.   W e believe Uniti Fiber is well positioned to capitalize on this ongoing demand for bandwidth infrastructure solutions.

 

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Fund Capital Extensions to Existing and New Tenants for Improvements of Infrastructure Assets

 

We believe the communications infrastructure industry in the United States is currently going through an upgrade cycle driven by consumers’ general desire for greater bandwidth and wireless services. These upgrades require significant capital expenditures, and we believe Uniti provides an attractive, non-competitive funding source for communication service providers to help accelerate the improvement and expansion of their networks at an attractive cost of capital.

 

We intend to support our tenant operators and other communication service providers by providing capital to them for a variety of purposes, including capacity augmentation projects, tower construction and network expansions. We expect to structure these investments as lease arrangements that produce additional rents.

 

Facilitate M&A Transactions in the Communication Service Sector as a Capital Partner

 

We believe Uniti can provide cost efficient funds to potential acquirers in the communication service sector, and thereby facilitate M&A transactions as a capital partner, including by partnering with operators through use of “OpCo-PropCo” structures, pursuant to we acquire the underlying network and other assets and the operator acquires the operations. The highly fragmented nature of the communication service sector is expected to result in more consolidation, which we believe will provide us ample opportunity to pursue these types of transactions.

 

Maintain Balance Sheet Strength and Liquidity

 

We seek to maintain a capital structure that provides the resources and financial flexibility to position us to capitalize on strategic growth opportunities. Our access to, and cost of, external capital is dependent on various factors, including general market conditions, credit ratings on our securities, interest rates and expectations of our future business performance. We intend to maintain a strong balance sheet through disciplined use of leverage, aiming to lower our relative cost of capital over time, and continuing to have access to multiple sources of capital and liquidity. As of December 31, 2018, we had $38.0 million of unrestricted cash and cash equivalents, and $110 million of undrawn borrowing capacity under our revolving credit facility, although we have since drawn substantially all of our revolver capacity. As of December 31, 2018, with the exception of our revolving credit facility, all of our debt is either fixed-rate debt, or floating-rate debt that we have fixed through the use of interest rate swaps.

 

Competition

 

We compete for investments in the communications industry with telecommunications companies, investment companies, private equity funds, hedge fund investors, sovereign funds and other REITs who focus primarily on specific segments of the communications infrastructure industry. The communications infrastructure industry is characterized by a high degree of competition among a large number of participants, including many local, regional and global corporations.  Some of our competitors are significantly larger and have greater financial resources and lower costs of capital than we have. In addition, revenues from our network properties are dependent, to an extent, on the ability of our operating partners, like Windstream, to compete with other communication service providers.

 

However, we believe we are positioned to identify and successfully capitalize on acquisition opportunities that meet our investment objectives and that we have significant competitive advantages that support our leadership position in owning, funding the construction of and leasing communications infrastructure, including:

 

First-Mover Advantage; Uniquely Positioned to Capitalize on Expansion Opportunities

 

We are the first and only REIT primarily focused on the acquisition and construction of mission critical infrastructure in the communications industry. We believe this provides us with a significant first-mover competitive advantage to capitalize on the large and fragmented communications infrastructure industry. Additionally, we believe our position, scale and national reach will help us achieve operational efficiencies and support future growth opportunities.

 

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Large Scale Anchor Tenant

 

We believe the assets we lease to Windstream under the Master Lease are critical for Windstream to successfully run its business and operations, and that Windstream will need the assets subject to the Master Lease while it undergoes its restructuring as set forth under “Risk Factors”. Windstream, as our anchor tenant, provides us with a base of rent revenues as an initial platform for us to grow and diversify our portfolio and tenant base.  

 

Windstream is a publicly-traded company that provides advanced network communications and technology solutions for businesses across the United States. Windstream also offers broadband, entertainment and security solutions to consumers and small businesses primarily in rural areas. Windstream continues to operate the Distribution Systems, hold the associated regulatory licenses and own and operate other assets, including distribution systems in select states not included in the Spin-Off.

 

Windstream has a diverse customer base, encompassing enterprise and small business customers, carriers and consumers. The Distribution Systems we lease to Windstream are located in 29 different states across the continental United States. The fiber assets in any one state do not account for more than 20% of the total route miles in our network. We believe this geographic diversification will limit the effect of changes in any one market on our overall performance.

 

Windstream is subject to the reporting requirements of the SEC, which include the requirements to file annual reports containing audited financial information and quarterly reports containing unaudited financial information. Windstream’s filings with the SEC can be found at www.sec.gov. Windstream’s filings are not incorporated by reference into this Annual Report.

 

Strong Relationships with Communication Service Providers

 

Members of our management team have developed an extensive network of relationships with qualified local, regional and national communication service providers across the United States. This extensive network has been built by our management team through decades of operating experience, involvement in industry trade organizations and the development of banking relationships and investor relations within the communications infrastructure industry. We believe these strong relationships will allow us to effectively source investment opportunities from communication service providers other than Windstream. We intend to work collaboratively with our operating partners in providing expansion capital at attractive rates to help them achieve their growth and business objectives. We will seek to partner with communication service providers who possess local market knowledge, demonstrate hands-on management and have proven track records.

 

Experienced and Committed Management Team

 

Our senior management team is comprised of veteran leaders with strong backgrounds in their respective disciplines. Our senior management team has extensive experience managing telecommunications operations, consummating mergers and acquisitions and accessing both debt and equity capital markets to fund growth and maintain a flexible capital structure.

 

Insurance

 

We maintain, or will require in our leases (including the Master Lease), that our tenants maintain, all applicable lines of insurance on our properties and their operations. Under the Master Lease, Windstream has the right to self-insure or use a captive provider with respect to its insurance obligations. We believe that the amount and scope of insurance coverage provided by our policies and the policies maintained by our tenants are customary for similarly situated companies in the telecommunications industry. However, our tenants may elect not to, or be able to, maintain the required insurance coverages, and the failure by any of them to do so could have a material adverse effect on us. We may not continue to require the same levels of insurance coverage under our leases, including the Master Lease, and such insurance may not be available at a reasonable cost in the future or fully cover all losses on our properties upon the occurrence of a catastrophic event.  Moreover, we cannot guarantee the future financial viability of the insurers.

 

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Employees

 

At December 31, 2018, we had 798 full-time employees. Except for 18 employees in Mexico, none of our employees are subject to a collective bargaining agreement.

 

Significant Customers

 

For the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016, 68.2% , 74.8% and 87.9% of our revenues, respectively, were derived from leasing our Distribution Systems to Windstream Holdings pursuant to the Master Lease.  

 

On February 25, 2019, Windstream filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.  For a discussion of the impact that Windstream’s bankruptcy may have on the Master Lease, see Part I, Item 1A “Risk Factors” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

Government Regulation, Licensing and Enforcement

 

U.S. Telecommunications Regulatory Overview

 

Market Overview

 

Our subsidiaries and our tenants operate in a regulated market.  As operators of telecommunications facilities and services, both we and the current and future tenants of our telecommunications assets are typically subject to extensive and complex federal, state and local telecommunications laws and regulations. The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) regulates the provision of interstate and international telecommunications services, and state public utility commissions (“PUCs”) regulate intrastate telecommunications services. Federal and state telecommunications laws and regulations are wide-ranging, and violations of them can subject us and our tenants to civil, criminal and administrative sanctions. We expect that the telecommunications industry, in general, will continue to face increased regulation. Changes in laws and regulations and violations of federal or state laws or regulations by us or our tenants could have a significant direct or indirect effect on our operations and financial condition, as detailed below and set forth under “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business.”

 

Our operations require that certain of our subsidiaries across all segments hold licenses or other forms of authorization from the FCC and state PUCs in those states where we operate, and in some jurisdictions our subsidiaries must file tariffs or other price lists describing their rates, terms and conditions of the services they provide.  The FCC and PUCs can modify or terminate a service provider’s license or other authority to provide telecommunications services for failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations.  The FCC and PUCs may also investigate our subsidiaries’ operations and may impose fines or other penalties for violations of the same.  In addition, our subsidiaries are required to submit periodic reports to the FCC and PUCs documenting their revenues and other data.  Some of this information is used as the basis for the imposition of various regulatory fees and other assessments. In order to engage in certain transactions in some jurisdictions, including changes of control, the encumbrance of certain assets, the issuance of securities, the incurrence of indebtedness, the guarantee of indebtedness of other entities, including subsidiaries of ours, and the transfer of assets, we are required to provide notice and/or obtain prior approval from certain governmental agencies.  Failure to obtain such approvals could subject us to fines or other penalties.

  

Our subsidiaries are subject to a number of federal and state regulations that govern the way we can conduct our business.  Such regulations also impose certain operating costs on our businesses.  These regulations can include restrictions on pricing flexibility for certain products, minimum service quality standards, service reporting, intercarrier compensation, contributions to universal service, and other obligations.  

 

We have sought to structure the operations for our core real estate business in a manner that will not require us to become regulated as a public utility or common carrier by the FCC or PUCs, but a number of our business operations are nonetheless subject to federal, state, and local regulation, and we cannot guarantee that our core real estate business will not become further subject to federal, state, and local regulation in the future.

 

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Consumer CLEC Business

 

Talk America operates the Consumer CLEC Business as a reseller of telecommunication services pursuant to a Wholesale Master Services Agreement and a Master Service Agreement with Windstream.  In almost all cases, Windstream does not own the underlying telecommunication facilities required to support the Consumer CLEC Business, rather it is a reseller of facility-based services pursuant to wholesale interconnection agreements with third-party carriers that own the underlying telecommunication facilities. Talk America is authorized and regulated as a CLEC and an interexchange (long-distance) service provider in most states where it has Consumer CLEC Business customers. These certifications subject Talk America to regulations requiring it to file and maintain tariffs for the rates charged to its Consumer CLEC Business customers for regulated services and to comply with service quality, service reporting and other regulatory obligations. Talk America’s ability to operate the Consumer CLEC Business is dependent on existing telecommunication regulations that allow access to such underlying facilities of other carriers at reasonable rates.  The FCC is considering proposals to eliminate the requirement that incumbent local exchange carriers offer unbundled network elements to companies like Windstream and Talk America.  We cannot predict how the FCC will resolve those proposals, nor whether such network elements will continue to be available in the future at the rates they are available today.

 

With respect to the broadband Internet services that we provide, traditionally, the FCC has recognized that broadband Internet access services are “information services” subject to limited regulation. In 2015, the FCC issued a “network neutrality” decision that declared broadband Internet access services to be subject to certain “telecommunications services” regulation under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. These regulations would have limited the ways that broadband Internet access service providers could structure business arrangements and manage their networks and spurred additional restrictions, including rate regulation, which could adversely affect broadband investment and innovation. In 2017, the FCC voted to return broadband Internet access service to its prior classification as “information services.” As a result of these decisions, state legislators and governors have introduced, and in some cases passed, state laws and executive orders requiring different levels of adherence to “network neutrality” principles for broadband Internet access service providers active in the applicable states. As a result of these laws and regulations, it is unclear at this time how broadband services will be regulated in the future, and the potential impact those regulations may have on our broadband Internet service business.

 

Uniti Towers

 

Uniti Towers is subject to international, federal, state and local regulatory requirements with respect to the registration, siting, construction, lighting, marking and maintenance of our towers. In the United States, the construction of new towers or modifications to existing towers may require pre-approval by the FCC and the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), depending on factors such as tower height and proximity to public airfields. Towers requiring pre-approval must be registered with the FCC and maintained in accordance with FCC and FAA standards. Similar requirements regarding pre-approval of the construction and modification of towers are imposed by regulators in other countries where Uniti Towers owns and operates towers. Non-compliance with applicable tower-related requirements may lead to monetary penalties or site deconstruction orders.

 

Regulatory regimes outside of the United States and its territories vary by country and locality; however, these regulations typically require approval from local officials or government agencies prior to tower construction or modification or the addition of a new antenna to an existing tower. Additionally, some regulations include ongoing obligations regarding painting, lighting and maintenance. Our international operations may also be subject to limitations on foreign ownership of land in certain areas. Non-compliance with such regulations may lead to monetary penalties or deconstruction orders. Our international operations are also subject to various regulations and guidelines regarding employee relations and other occupational health and safety matters.

 

In all countries where Uniti Towers operates, it is subject to zoning restrictions and restrictive covenants imposed by local authorities or community organizations. While these regulations vary, they typically require approval from local authorities or community standards organizations prior to tower construction or the addition of a new antenna to an existing tower. Opposition by local zoning authorities and community residents can delay or prevent new tower construction or site upgrade projects, thereby increasing the costs and timing of new tower construction and modifications or site upgrades.

 

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The failure to properly maintain towers pursuant to applicable regulatory requirement s, such as but not limited to, lighting, painting, and other safety standards, can subject us to significant enforcement actions, including monetary penalties both within the United States and abroad.

 

Uniti Fiber

 

Our subsidiaries that compose Uniti Fiber own and operate significant fiber and other communications backhaul facilities throughout various regions of the United States . The provision of such services is subject to FCC and PUC licensure in many jurisdictions, and the companies are typically licensed as CLECs and/or interexchange carriers in those states where they operate.  The companies also hold various FCC wireless licenses in order to provide microwave backhaul services.  Because of the nature of the licenses that these companies hold, and the nature of the services that they provide, they are subject to various federal and state regulatory requirements, including, but not limited to, revenue and other reporting requirements and tariffing requirements.  The companies must also maintain their wireless licenses with the FCC, which requires construction and notification reporting and other regulatory requirements.  New fiber network construction is also subject to certain state and local governmental permitting and licensing requirements.  Delays in the local and state permitting process can delay the construction of new facilities.  Failure to abide by permit requirements can subject the company to fines and other penalties.  

 

Regulatory Changes

 

Future revenues, costs and capital investment in the communication businesses of our tenants, Talk America, Uniti Fiber, Uniti Towers, and other related entities could be adversely affected by material changes to, or decisions regarding applicability of, government requirements, including, but not limited to, changes in rules governing inter-carrier compensation, interconnection access to network facilities, state and federal universal service fund (“USF”) support, rules governing the prices that can be charged for business data services, infrastructure location and siting rules, access to unbundled network elements, and other requirements.  Federal and state communications laws and regulations may be amended in the future, and other new laws and regulations may affect our business.  In addition, certain laws and regulations applicable to us and our competitors may be, and have been, challenged in the courts and could be vacated or modified at any time. We cannot predict future developments or changes to the regulatory environment or the impact such developments or changes would have on our business.

 

In addition, regulations could create significant compliance costs for us.  Delays in obtaining FCC and PUC certifications and regulatory approvals could cause us to incur substantial legal and administrative expenses, and conditions imposed in connection with such approvals could adversely affect the rates that we are able to charge our customers. Both our subsidiaries and our tenants may also be affected by legislation and/or regulation imposing new or additional obligations related to, for example, law enforcement assistance, cyber-security protection, intellectual property rights protections, environmental protections, consumer privacy, tax, or other areas.  We cannot predict how any such future changes may impact our business, or the business of our tenants .

 

Environmental Matters

 

A wide variety of federal, state and local environmental and occupational health and safety laws and regulations affect telecommunications operations and facilities. These laws and regulations, and their enforcement, involve complex and varied requirements, and many such laws and regulations impose strict liability for violations.  Some of these federal, state and local laws may directly impact us. Under various federal, state and local environmental laws, ordinances and regulations, an owner of real property, such as us, may be liable for the costs of removal or remediation of hazardous or toxic substances at, under or disposed of in connection with such property, as well as other potential costs relating to hazardous or toxic substances (including government fines and damages for injuries to persons and adjacent property). The cost of any required remediation, removal, fines or personal property damages and the owner’s liability therefore could exceed or impair the value of the property and/or the assets of the owner. In addition, the presence of such substances, or the failure to properly dispose of or remediate such substances, may adversely affect the owner’s ability to sell or rent such property or to borrow using such property as collateral, which, in turn, could reduce revenues.

 

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Available Information

 

Our principal executive offices are located at 10802 Executive Center Drive, Benton Building Suite 300, Little Rock, AR 72211 and our telephone number is (501) 850-0820.  We maintain a website at www.uniti.com .  Our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and any amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) are available on our website, free of charge, as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such materials with, or furnish them to, the SEC. Our Exchange Act filings can also be found at www.sec.gov .

 

Current copies of our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics & Whistleblower Policy, Corporate Governance Guidelines, and the charters for our Audit, Compensation and Governance Committees are posted in the Corporate Governance section of the About Us page of our website at www.uniti.com.

Item 1A. Risk Factors.  

Risks Related to Our Business

 

We are dependent on Windstream Holdings to make payments to us under the Master Lease, and an event that materially and adversely affects Windstream’s business, financial position or results of operations, including as a result of its recent petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code, could materially and adversely affect our business, financial position or results of operations.

 

Windstream is the lessee of the Distribution Systems pursuant to the Master Lease and, therefore, is presently the source of a substantial portion of our revenues. There can be no assurance that Windstream will have sufficient assets, income and access to financing to enable it to satisfy its payment and other obligations under the Master Lease. In recent years, Windstream has experienced annual declines in its total revenue, sales and cash flow, and has had its credit ratings downgraded by nationally recognized credit rating agencies multiple times over the past 12 months.  Windstream has been involved in litigation with an entity who acquired certain Windstream debt securities and thereafter issued a notice of default as to such securities relating to the Spin-Off.  Windstream challenged the matter in federal court and a trial was held in July 2018. On February 15, 2019, the federal court judge issued a ruling against Windstream, finding that its attempts to waive such default were not valid; that an “event of default” occurred with respect to such debt securities; and that the holder’s acceleration of such debt in December 2017 was effective.  

 

In response to the adverse outcome, on February 25, 2019, Windstream filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

 

In bankruptcy, Windstream has the option to assume or reject the Master Lease. We believe that the Master Lease is essential to Windstream’s operations, however it is difficult to predict what could occur in a bankruptcy restructuring, and even a temporary disruption in payments to us may require us to fund certain expenses and obligations (e.g., real estate taxes, insurance and maintenance expenses) to preserve the value of our properties and avoid the imposition of liens on our properties and could impact our ability to fund other cash obligations, including dividends necessary to maintain REIT status, non-essential capital expenditures and, in an extreme case, our debt service obligations. A rejection by Windstream of the Master Lease or its inability or unwillingness to meet its rent and other obligations under the Master Lease could materially adversely affect our consolidated results of operations, liquidity, and financial condition, including our ability to service debt and pay dividends to our stockholders as required to maintain our status as a REIT.

 

In the event of a rejection of the Master Lease, we cannot assure you that we will be able to locate a suitable replacement tenant or if we are successful in locating a replacement tenant, that the rental payments from the new tenant would not be significantly less than the existing rental payments. In addition, a rejection of the Master Lease by Windstream would result in an “event of default” under our Credit Agreement if we are unable to enter into a replacement lease that satisfies certain criteria set forth in the Credit Agreement within ninety (90) calendar days and we do not maintain pro forma compliance with a consolidated secured leverage ratio, as defined in the Credit Agreement, of 5.00 to 1.00.

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There is substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.

 

There is substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern and in its opinion on our December 31, 2018 financial statements, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, our independent registered public accounting firm, expressed substantial doubt as to whether we could continue as a going concern within one year after the date the financial statements are issued as a result of Windstream’s bankruptcy petition and the bankruptcy’s uncertain effects on the Master Lease. Our financial statements do not include any adjustments that may result from the outcome of this uncertainty. While the outcome is uncertain, we expect Windstream will continue to perform on the Master Lease and believe the probability of Windstream rejecting the lease in bankruptcy to be remote because the Master Lease is central to Windstream’s operations. We intend to reduce our capital expenditures and dividend as well as seek external funding in order to sustain our operations. If we do not succeed in raising such funds and reducing such expenditures and if Windstream elects to reject the Master Lease, we could experience a material adverse effect on our business and our stockholders may lose some or all of their investment in us. In addition, a failure to provide 2018 audited financial statements without a going concern opinion to the lenders under our Credit Agreement by March 31, 2019 would constitute a breach of the covenants of our Credit Agreement and, unless such default is waived by our lenders, would constitute an immediate event of default.  If an event of default were to occur under our Credit Agreement, the Credit Agreement’s administrative agent could declare all outstanding loans immediately due and payable. Such an acceleration would trigger cross-default provisions within the indentures governing our senior notes and thereby entitle the trustee and noteholders to accelerate the repayment of the senior notes.  

 

On March 18, 2019, we received a limited waiver from our lenders under our Credit Agreement, waiving an event of default related solely to the receipt of a going concern opinion from our auditors for our 2018 audited financial statements.  The limited waiver was issued in connection with the fourth amendment (the “Amendment”) to our Credit Agreement. During the pendency of Windstream’s bankruptcy, or at such earlier time when certain other conditions are specified, the Amendment generally limits our ability under the Credit Agreement to (i) prepay unsecured indebtedness and (ii) pay cash dividends in excess of 90% of our REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the dividends paid deduction and excluding any net capital gains. The Amendment also increases the interest rate on our Term Loan Facility, which will now bear a rate of LIBOR, subject to a 1.0% floor, plus an applicable margin equal to 5.0%, a 200 basis point increase over our previous rate. This increase will be in effect though the remaining term of the facility, which matures on October 24, 2022.

 

If the Spin-Off, together with certain related transactions, fails to qualify as a tax-free transaction for U.S. federal income tax purposes, both we and Windstream could be subject to significant tax liabilities and, in certain circumstances, we could be required to indemnify Windstream for material taxes pursuant to indemnification obligations under the tax matters agreement entered into in connection with the Spin-Off.

 

Windstream received a private letter ruling (the “IRS Ruling”) from the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) to the effect that, on the basis of certain facts presented and representations and assumptions set forth in the request submitted to the IRS, the Spin-Off will qualify as tax-free under Sections 355 and 368(a)(1)(D) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”). Although a private letter ruling from the IRS generally is binding on the IRS, if the factual representations and assumptions made in the letter ruling request are untrue or incomplete in any material respect, then Windstream will not be able to rely on the IRS Ruling. In addition, the IRS Ruling does not address certain requirements for tax-free treatment of the Spin-Off under Sections 355 and 368(a)(1)(D) of the Code and Windstream’s use of Uniti indebtedness and common stock to retire certain of Windstream’s indebtedness (the “debt exchanges”). Accordingly, the Spin-Off was conditioned upon the receipt by Windstream of a tax opinion from its counsel with respect to the requirements on which the IRS did not rule, which concluded that such requirements also should be satisfied. The tax opinion was based on, among other things, the IRS Ruling, then current law and certain representations and assumptions as to factual matters made by Windstream and us. Any change in currently applicable law, which may or may not be retroactive, or the failure of any factual representation or assumption to be true, correct and complete in all material respects, could adversely affect the conclusions reached in the tax opinion. In addition, the tax opinion is not binding on the IRS or the courts, and the IRS or the courts may not agree with the tax opinion.

 

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If the Spin-Off were determined to be taxable, Windstream would recognize ta xable gain. Under the terms of the tax matters agreement entered into with Windstream in connection with the Spin-Off (the “Tax Matters Agreement”), we are generally responsible for any taxes imposed on Windstream that arise from the failure of the Spin-Of f and the debt exchanges to qualify as tax-free for U.S. federal income tax purposes, within the meaning of Section 355 and Section 368(a)(1)(D) of the Code, as applicable, to the extent such failure to qualify is attributable to certain actions, events or transactions relating to our stock, indebtedness, assets or business, or a breach of the relevant representations or any covenants made by us in the Tax Matters Agreement, the materials submitted to the IRS in connection with the request for the IRS Rulin g or the representations provided in connection with the tax opinion. Our indemnification obligations to Windstream are not limited by any maximum amount and such amounts could be substantial. If we are required to indemnify Windstream under the circumstan ces set forth in the Tax Matters Agreement, we may also be subject to substantial tax liabilities.

 

In addition, if the Spin-Off or the debt exchanges failed to qualify as tax free for U.S. federal income tax purposes, Windstream may incur significant tax liabilities that could materially affect Windstream’s ability to make payments under the Master Lease.

 

Our level of indebtedness could materially and adversely affect our financial position, including reducing funds available for other business purposes and reducing our operational flexibility.

 

As of December 31, 2018 , we had outstanding long term indebtedness of approximately $ 4.5 billion consisting of a combination of senior notes and term loans. Additionally, we have a revolving credit facility in an aggregate principal amount of up to $750 million, $ 110 million of which was undrawn as of December 31 , 2018 , provided by a syndicate of banks and other financial institutions. We have since drawn substantially all of our revolver capacity.  Subject to the restrictions set forth in our debt agreements, our board of directors may establish and change our leverage policy at any time without stockholder approval. Any significant additional indebtedness could require a substantial portion of our cash flow to make interest and principal payments due on our indebtedness. Greater demands on our cash resources may reduce funds available to us to pay dividends, make capital expenditures and acquisitions, or carry out other aspects of our business strategy. Increased indebtedness can also limit our ability to adjust rapidly to changing market conditions, make us more vulnerable to general adverse economic and industry conditions and create competitive disadvantages for us compared to other companies with relatively lower debt levels. Increased future debt service obligations may limit our operational flexibility, including our ability to acquire assets, finance or refinance our assets or sell assets as needed, and our ability to pay dividends. Please see  “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations —Liquidity and Capital Resources—Credit Agreement” for information about the terms of the limited waiver we received from the lenders to our Credit Agreement.

 

In addition, we continuously evaluate opportunities to refinance or repurchase existing debt.  However, in light of recent developments and uncertainty surrounding Windstream and the effect of substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern, there can be no assurance that any debt refinanced would be on similar or more favorable terms than our existing agreements.  This would include the risk that interest rates could increase and/or there may be changes to our existing covenants.

 

We anticipate that we will have sufficient access to liquidity to fund our cash needs; if we are unable to do so, we would need to reduce our spending and it could have an adverse effect on us.

We anticipate continuing to invest in our network infrastructure across our Uniti Leasing, Uniti Fiber and Uniti Towers portfolios.  We have also committed to spend $175 million on our proposed acquisition of Bluebird (for which we have obtained committed financing), net of the collection of prepaid rent.  We anticipate declaring dividends for the 2019 tax year to comply with our REIT distribution requirements.  We anticipate that we will partially finance these needs, together with operating expenses (including our debt service obligations) from our $38 million of cash on hand and $110 million of borrowing availability under the Revolving Credit Facility (although we have since drawn substantially all of our revolver capacity), cash flows provided by operating activities, together with funds anticipated from announced divestures.  However, we may need to access the capital markets to generate additional funds in an amount sufficient to fund our business operations, announced investment activities, capital expenditures, debt service and distributions to our shareholders.  We are closely monitoring the equity and debt markets and will seek to access them promptly when we determine market conditions are appropriate. The amount,

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nature and timing of any capital markets transactions will depend on: our operating performance and other circumstances; our then-current commitments and obligations; the amount, nature and timing of our capital requirements; any limitations imposed by our current credit arrangements; and overall market conditions. These expectations are forward-looking and subject to a number of uncertainties and assumptions. If our expectations a bout our liquidity prove to be incorrect or we are unable to access the capital markets as we anticipate, we would be subject to a shortfall in liquidity in the future which could lead to a reduction in our capital expenditures and/or dividends and, in an extreme case, our ability to pay our debt service obligations.  If this shortfall occurs rapidly and with little or no notice, it could limit our ability to address the shortfall on a timely basis.

 

In light of recent developments and uncertainty surrounding Windstream, we may take measures to conserve cash as we anticipate that it may be difficult for us to access the capital markets at attractive rates until such uncertainty is clarified.  Accordingly, we may elect to suspend, delay or reduce success-based capital expenditures and dividend payments to conserve cash and if necessary, we may pay one or more dividends that are required to maintain or REIT status in shares to the extent allowed under IRS REIT rules.  If our assumptions are incorrect, we could need additional sources of liquidity to fund our cash needs and cannot assure that we will obtain them.

 

We intend to pursue acquisitions of additional properties and seek other strategic opportunities, which may result in the use of a significant amount of management resources or significant costs, and we may not fully realize the potential benefits of such transactions.

 

We intend to pursue acquisitions of additional properties and seek acquisitions and other strategic opportunities. Accordingly, we currently are, and expect in the future to be, engaged in evaluating potential transactions and other strategic alternatives. Although there is uncertainty that any of these discussions will result in definitive agreements or the completion of any transaction, we may devote a significant amount of our management resources to such a transaction, which could negatively impact our operations. We may incur significant costs in connection with seeking acquisitions or other strategic opportunities regardless of whether the transaction is completed. In the event that we consummate an acquisition or strategic alternative in the future, there is no assurance that we would fully realize the potential benefits of such a transaction. Integration may be difficult and unpredictable, and acquisition-related integration costs, including certain non-recurring charges, could materially and adversely affect our results of operations. Moreover, integrating assets and businesses may significantly burden management and internal resources, including the potential loss or unavailability of key personnel. If we fail to successfully integrate the assets and businesses we acquire, we may not fully realize the potential benefits we expect, and our operating results could be adversely affected.

 

In light of Windstream developments, we may curtail our acquisition activities during the pendency of Windstream’s bankruptcy in an effort to conserve cash.

 

We are dependent on the communications industry and may be susceptible to the risks associated with it, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial position or results of operations.

 

As the owner, lessor and provider of communications services and distribution systems serving the communications industry, we are impacted by the risks associated with the communications industry. Therefore, our success is to some degree dependent on the communications industry, which could be adversely affected by economic conditions in general, changes in consumer trends and preferences, changes in communications technology designed to enhance the efficiency of communications distribution systems (including lit fiber networks and wireless equipment), and other factors over which we and our tenants have no control. As we are subject to risks inherent in substantial investments in a single industry, a decrease in the communications business or development and implementation of any such new technologies would likely have an adverse effect on our revenues.

 

Our business is subject to government regulations and changes in current or future laws or regulations could restrict our ability to operate our business in the manner currently contemplated.

 

Our business, and that of our tenants, is subject to federal, state, local and foreign regulation. In certain jurisdictions these regulations could be applied or enforced retroactively. Local zoning authorities and community organizations are often opposed to construction in their communities and these regulations can delay, prevent or increase the cost of new distribution system construction and modifications, thereby limiting our ability to respond to customer

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demands and requirements. Existing regulatory policies may materially and adversely affect the associated t iming or cost of such projects and additional regulations may be adopted which increase delays or result in additional costs to us, or that prevent such projects in certain locations. These factors could materially and adversely affect our business, result s of operations or financial condition. For more information regarding the regulations we are subject to, please see the section entitled “Business – Government Regulation, Licensing and Enforcement.”

 

If we determine that our goodwill has become impaired, we may incur impairment charges, which would negatively impact our operating results.

 

At December 31, 2018, we had $ 692.4 million of goodwill on our consolidated balance sheet. Goodwill represents the excess of cost over the fair value of net assets acquired in business combinations. We assess potential impairment of our goodwill at least annually. Impairment may result from significant changes in the manner of use of the acquired assets, negative industry or economic trends and/or any changes in key assumptions regarding our fair value, including any potential impacts of recent developments surrounding Windstream, as set forth in the first risk factor. Changes in these events and conditions or other assumptions could result in an impairment charge in the future, which could have a significant adverse impact on our reported earnings.   For a discussion of our goodwill impairment testing, see “Critical Accounting Policies-Evaluation of Goodwill Impairment” in Part II, Item 7A-Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

 

Our foreign operations are subject to economic, political and other risks that could materially and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.

 

Our international business operations expose us to potential adverse financial and operational problems not typically experienced in the United States, including:

 

 

international political, economic and legal conditions;

 

compliance with foreign regulations and/or laws affecting operations and projects;

 

difficulties in attracting and retaining staff and business partners to operate internationally;

 

language and cultural barriers;

 

seasonal reductions in business activities and operations in the countries where our international projects are located;

 

integration of foreign operations;

 

potential adverse tax consequences; and

 

potential foreign currency fluctuations.

 

In addition, many of our tenants in our international operations are subsidiaries of global telecommunications companies. These subsidiaries may not have the explicit or implied financial support of their parent entities. Any of these factors could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.

 

Our continued operations outside the United States increase the risk of violations of applicable anti-corruption laws in the future.

 

Our internal policies provide for compliance with all applicable anti-corruption laws, but despite our training and compliance programs, we cannot ensure that our internal control policies and procedures will always protect us from unauthorized, reckless or criminal acts committed by our employees, agents or partners.  A finding that the Company or its affiliates have violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) or similar foreign anti-corruption laws may result in severe criminal or civil sanctions, which could disrupt our business and result in a material adverse effect on our reputation, financial condition and results of operations.

 

We or our tenants may experience uninsured or underinsured losses, which could result in a significant loss of the capital we have invested in a property, decrease anticipated future revenues or cause us to incur unanticipated expenses.

 

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The Master Lease requires, and we expect that new lease agreements that we enter into will require, that the tenant maintain co mprehensive insurance and hazard insurance or self-insure its insurance obligations. However, there are certain types of losses, generally of a catastrophic nature, such as earthquakes, hurricanes and floods that may be uninsurable or not economically insu rable. Insurance coverage may not be sufficient to pay the full current market value or current replacement cost of a loss. Inflation, changes in ordinances, environmental considerations, and other factors also might make it infeasible to use insurance pro ceeds to replace the property after such property has been damaged or destroyed. Under such circumstances, the insurance proceeds received might not be adequate to restore the economic position with respect to such property.

 

In addition, even if damage to our properties is covered by insurance, a disruption of business caused by a casualty event may result in loss of revenue for our tenants or us. Any business interruption insurance may not fully compensate them or us for such loss of revenue. If one of our tenants experiences such a loss, it may be unable to satisfy its payment obligations to us under its lease with us.

 

We rely on information technology in our operations, and any material failure, inadequacy, interruption or security failure of that technology could harm our business.

 

We rely on information technology networks and systems, including the Internet, to process, transmit and store electronic information and to manage or support a variety of our business processes, including financial transactions and maintenance of records. We rely on commercially available systems, software, tools and monitoring to provide security for processing, transmitting and storing confidential information. Although we have taken steps to protect the security of the data maintained in our information systems, it is possible that our security measures will not be able to prevent the systems’ improper functioning, or the improper disclosure of information in the event of cyber-attacks. Physical or electronic break-ins, computer viruses, attacks by hackers and similar security breaches, can create system disruptions, shutdowns or unauthorized disclosure of confidential information. Any failure to maintain proper function, security and availability of our information systems could interrupt our operations, damage our reputation, subject us to liability claims or regulatory penalties and could materially and adversely affect us.

 

Any failure of Uniti Fiber’s physical infrastructure or services could lead to significant costs and disruptions.

 

Uniti Fiber’s business depends on providing customers with highly reliable service. The services provided are subject to failure resulting from numerous factors, including human error, power loss, improper maintenance, physical or electronic security breaches, fire, earthquake, hurricane, flood and other natural disasters, water damage, the effect of war, terrorism and any related conflicts or similar events worldwide, and sabotage and vandalism. Problems within Uniti Fiber’s networks or facilities, whether within our control or the control of third-party providers, could result in service interruptions or equipment damage. We may not be able to efficiently upgrade or change Uniti Fiber’s networks or facilities to meet new demands without incurring significant costs that we may not be able to pass on to customers. Given the service guarantees that may be included in Uniti Fiber’s agreements with customers, such disruptions could result in customer credits; however, we cannot assume that customers will accept these credits as compensation in the future, and we may face additional liability or loss of customers.

 

Risks Related to the Status of Uniti as a REIT

 

If we do not qualify as a REIT, or fail to remain qualified as a REIT, we will be subject to U.S. federal income tax as a regular corporation and could face a substantial tax liability, which could reduce the amount of cash available for distribution to our stockholders and to service debt.

 

We operate as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes.  Our qualification as a REIT will depend on our satisfaction of certain highly technical and complex asset, income, organizational, distribution, stockholder ownership and other requirements on a continuing basis. Our ability to satisfy the asset tests depends upon our analysis of the characterization and fair market values of our assets, some of which are not susceptible to a precise determination and for which we may not obtain independent appraisals.

 

If we were to fail to qualify as a REIT in any taxable year, we would be subject to U.S. federal income tax on our taxable income at regular corporate rates and dividends paid to our stockholders would not be deductible by us in computing our taxable income. Any resulting corporate liability could be substantial and could reduce the amount of

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cash available for distribution to our stockholders, which in turn could have an adverse impact on the value of our common sto ck and to service debt . Unless we were entitled to relief under certain Code provisions, we also would be disqualified from re-electing to be taxed as a REIT for the four taxable years following the year in which we failed to qualify as a REIT .

 

In addition, as a result o f the limited waiver and amendment to our Credit Agreement (discussed in the second risk factor) our ability to make cash distributions to our shareholders in amounts exceeding 90% of our REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the dividends paid deduction and excluding any capital gains, generally will be restricted.  As a result, we may be required to record a provision in our Consolidated Financial Statements for U.S. federal income taxes related to the activities of the REIT and its passthrough subsidiaries for any undistributed income. We are subject to the statutory requirements of the locations in which we conduct business, and state and local income taxes are accrued as deemed required in the best judgment of management based on analysis and interpretation of respective tax laws.

 

Legislative or other actions affecting REITs could have a negative effect on us.

 

The rules dealing with federal income taxation are constantly under review by persons involved in the legislative process and by the IRS and the U.S. Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”). Changes to the tax laws affecting REITs or TRSs, which may have retroactive application, could adversely affect our stockholders or us. We cannot predict how changes in the tax laws might affect our stockholders or us. Accordingly, we cannot provide assurance that new legislation, Treasury regulations, administrative interpretations or court decisions will not significantly affect our ability to remain qualified as a REIT, the federal income tax consequences of such qualification, the determination of the amount of REIT taxable income or the amount of tax paid by the TRSs.

 

We could fail to qualify as a REIT if income we receive from sale-leaseback transactions, such as income from Windstream pursuant to the Master Lease, is not treated as qualifying income.

 

Under applicable provisions of the Code, we will not be treated as a REIT unless we satisfy various requirements, including requirements relating to the sources of our gross income. Rents received or accrued by us from Windstream or other lessees will not be treated as qualifying rent for purposes of these requirements if the relevant lease is not respected as a true lease for U.S. federal income tax purposes and is instead treated as a service contract, joint venture or some other type of arrangement. If any of our leases, including the Master Lease, is not respected as a true lease for U.S. federal income tax purposes, we may fail to qualify as a REIT.

 

REIT distribution requirements could adversely affect our ability to execute our business plan, and we could elect to pay dividends substantially in the form of additional shares of our common stock.

 

We generally must qualify as a REIT and distribute annually at least 90% of our REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the dividends paid deduction and excluding any net capital gains, for the U.S. federal corporate income tax not to apply to earnings that we distribute (assuming that certain other requirements are also satisfied). To the extent that we satisfy this distribution requirement and qualify for taxation as a REIT but distribute less than 100% of our REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the dividends paid deduction and excluding any net capital gains, we will be subject to U.S. federal corporate income tax on our undistributed net taxable income. In addition, we will be subject to a 4% nondeductible excise tax if the actual amount that we distribute to our stockholders in a calendar year is less than a minimum amount specified for REITs under U.S. federal income tax laws. We currently intend to make distributions to our stockholders to comply with the REIT requirements of the Code.  However, as indicated in the risk factors above, as a result of recent developments surrounding Windstream, we may suspend, delay or reduce our dividend to conserve cash, and during the pendency of Windstream’s bankruptcy, or at such earlier time when certain other conditions are specified, (discussed in the second risk factor) our ability to make cash distributions to our shareholders in amounts exceeding 90% of our REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the dividends paid deduction and excluding any net capital gains, generally will be restricted. Accordingly, because we are required to make distributions in certain amounts to our shareholders in order to maintain our REIT status and avoid incurring entity-level income and excise tax, we may elect to pay one or more dividends to our shareholders substantially in the form of additional shares of common stock.  If we do so, the common stock that we distribute would be taxable dividend income to our shareholders, in whole or in part, based on the fair market value of our common stock at the time the dividend is paid.

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Our FFO is currently generated largely by rents paid under the Master Lease. From time to time, we may generate taxable income greater than our cash flow as a result of differences in timing between the recognition of taxable income and the actual receipt of cash or the effect of nondeductible capital expenditures, the creation of reserves or required debt or amortization payments. If we do not have other funds available in these situations, we could be required to borrow funds on unfavorable terms, sell assets at disadvantageous prices or distribute amounts that would otherwise be invested in future acquisitions in order to make distributions sufficient to enable us to pay out enough of our taxable income to satisfy the REIT distribution requirement and to avoid corporate income tax and the 4% excise tax in a particular year. These alternatives could increase our costs or reduce our equity. Thus, compliance with the REIT requirements may hinder our ability to grow, which could adversely affect the value of our common stock and decrease cash available to service debt.

 

Recent developments surrounding Windstream could adversely affect our ability to continue to qualify as a REIT.

 

In addition to satisfying the distribution requirement described above in the immediately preceding risk factor, we must satisfy a number of other requirements in order to qualify as a REIT.  Recent developments surrounding Windstream, as described above in the first risk factor, could adversely affect our ability to satisfy several of these requirements and thus our ability to continue to qualify as a REIT.

 

For example, in order to qualify as a REIT for any year, at the end of each calendar quarter, at least 75% of the value of our assets must consist of cash, cash items, government securities and “real estate assets” (as defined in the Code), and no more than 20% of the value of our total assets can be represented by securities (other than qualified real estate assets) of one or more TRSs, If we fail to comply with either of these requirements at the end of any calendar quarter, we must correct the failure within 30 days after the end of the calendar quarter or qualify for certain statutory relief provisions to avoid losing our REIT qualification. Our ability to satisfy these requirements depends in substantial part on the value of the assets that are the subject of the Master Lease with Windstream, and any diminution in the value of such assets, including as a result of any diminution in the implied value of the Master Lease as a result of changes in the financial condition or creditworthiness of Windstream, Windstream’s rejection of the Master Lease in bankruptcy or Windstream’s inability or unwillingness to meet its rent and other obligations under the Master Lease, could adversely affect our ability to satisfy these requirements at the end of any calendar quarter, and there can be no assurance that we would be able to timely correct any such failure or otherwise qualify for any statutory relief provision.

 

In addition, under applicable provisions of the Code, we will not be treated as a REIT for any year unless we satisfy various requirements, including requirements relating to the sources of our gross income in such year. Our ability to satisfy these gross income tests depends in substantial part on our receipt of rents paid under the Master Lease. The rejection by Windstream of the Master Lease, Windstream’s inability or unwillingness to meet its rent and other obligations under the Master Lease, or any suspension, delay or other reduction in the amount of rent that we receive under the Master Lease could adversely affect our ability to qualify as a REIT.

 

Even if we remain qualified as a REIT, we may face other tax liabilities that reduce our cash flow.

 

Even if we remain qualified for taxation as a REIT, we may be subject to certain U.S. federal, state and local taxes on our income and assets, including taxes on any undistributed income and state or local income, property and transfer taxes. For example, we hold some of our assets and conduct certain of our activities through a TRS that is subject to U.S. federal, state and local corporate-level income taxes as a regular C corporation. In addition, we may incur a 100% excise tax on transactions with a TRS if they are not conducted on an arm’s-length basis. Any of these taxes could decrease cash available for distribution to our stockholders and servicing our debt.

 

Complying with the REIT requirements may cause us to forego otherwise attractive acquisition opportunities.

 

To qualify as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes, we must ensure that, at the end of each calendar quarter, at least 75% of the value of our assets consists of cash, cash items, government securities and “real estate assets” (as defined in the Code). The remainder of our investments (other than government securities, qualified real estate assets and securities issued by a TRS) generally cannot include more than 10% of the outstanding voting securities of any one issuer or more than 10% of the total value of the outstanding securities of any one issuer. In addition, in

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general, no more than 5% of the value of our total assets (other than government securities, qualified real estate assets and securities issued by a TRS) can consist o f the securities of any one issuer, no more than 20% of the value of our total assets can be represented by securities (other than qualified real estate assets) of one or more TRSs , and no more than 25% of the value of our total assets can be represented b y nonqualified publicly offered REIT debt instruments (as defined in the Code) . If we fail to comply with these requirements at the end of any calendar quarter, we must correct the failure within 30 days after the end of the calendar quarter or qualify for certain statutory relief provisions to avoid losing our REIT qualification and suffering adverse tax consequences. As a result of such asset limitations, we may be required to forego otherwise attractive investments. These actions could have the effect of reducing our income and amounts available for distribution to our stockholders and servicing our debt.

 

Risks Related to Our Common Stock

 

We cannot guarantee our ability to pay dividends in the future.

 

To qualify as a REIT, our annual dividend must not be less than 90% of our REIT taxable income on an annual basis, determined without regard to the dividends paid deduction and excluding any net capital gains. Our ability to pay dividends may be adversely affected by a number of factors, including the risk factors herein. Dividends will be authorized by our board of directors and declared by us based upon a number of factors, including actual results of operations, restrictions under Maryland law or applicable debt covenants, our financial condition, our taxable income, the annual distribution requirements under the REIT provisions of the Code, our operating expenses and other factors our directors deem relevant. We cannot ensure that we will achieve investment results that will allow us to make a specified level of cash dividends or year-to-year increases in cash dividends in the future.  As a result of recent actions related to Windstream, as set forth in the first risk factor, we may choose to reduce or suspend our dividend for a period of time until the situation is clarified. Moreover, during the pendency of Windstream’s bankruptcy, or at such earlier time when certain other conditions are specified, (discussed in the second risk factor and “Risks Related to the Status of Uniti as a REIT – REIT distribution requirements could adversely affect our ability to execute our business plan” ) our ability to make cash distributions to our shareholders in amounts exceeding 90% of our REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the dividends paid deduction and excluding any net capital gains, generally will be restricted. Accordingly, because we are required to make distributions in certain amounts to our shareholders in order to maintain our REIT status and avoid incurring entity-level income and excise tax, we may elect to pay one or more dividends to our shareholders substantially in the form of additional shares of common stock.  If we do so, the common stock that we distribute would be taxable dividend income to our shareholders, in whole or in part, based on the fair market value of our common stock at the time the dividend is paid.

 

Furthermore, while we are required to pay dividends in order to maintain our REIT status (as described above under “Risks Related to the Status of Uniti as a REIT—REIT distribution requirements could adversely affect our ability to execute our business plan”), we may elect not to maintain our REIT status, in which case we would no longer be required to pay such dividends. Moreover, even if we do maintain our REIT status, after completing various procedural steps, we may elect to comply with the applicable distribution requirements by distributing, under certain circumstances, shares of our common stock in lieu of cash. If we elect not to maintain our REIT status or to satisfy any required distributions in shares of common stock in lieu of cash, such action could negatively affect our business and financial condition as well as the market price of our common stock. No assurance can be given that we will pay any dividends on shares of our common stock in the future.

 

The market price and trading volume of our common stock may fluctuate widely.

 

We cannot predict the prices at which our common stock may trade.  The market price of our common stock has fluctuated significantly since February 15, 2019 and may continue to fluctuate significantly, depending upon many factors, some of which may be beyond our control, including the collateral consequences that have resulted, or could result, from Windstream’s bankruptcy.

 

Our charter restricts the ownership and transfer of our outstanding stock, which may have the effect of delaying, deferring or preventing a transaction or change of control of our company.

 

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In order for us to qualify as a REIT, not more than 50% in value of our ou tstanding shares of stock may be owned, beneficially or constructively, by five or fewer individuals at any time during the last half of each taxable year after the first year for which we elect to be taxed and qualify as a REIT. Additionally, at least 100 persons must beneficially own our stock during at least 335 days of a taxable year (other than the first taxable year for which we elect to be taxed and qualify as a REIT). Our charter, with certain exceptions, authorizes our board of directors to take su ch actions as are necessary or advisable to preserve our qualification as a REIT. Our charter also provides that, unless exempted by the board of directors, no person may own more than 9.8% in value or in number, whichever is more restrictive, of the outst anding shares of our common stock or more than 9.8% in value of the aggregate of the outstanding shares of all classes and series of our stock. The constructive ownership rules are complex and may cause shares of stock owned directly or constructively by a group of related individuals or entities to be constructively owned by one individual or entity. These ownership limits could delay or prevent a transaction or a change in control of us that might involve a premium price for shares of our stock or otherwi se be in the best interests of our stockholders.

Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments.

None

Item 2. Properties.

Uniti and its subsidiaries own approximately 112,300 fiber network route miles, representing approximately 5.6 million fiber strand miles, approximately 215,100 route miles of copper cable lines, central office land and buildings across 42 states and beneficial rights to permits, pole agreements and easements.

Leasing Segment

Uniti Leasing’s network properties include its fiber route miles and copper route miles. Below is a geographic distribution summary as of December 31, 2018:

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Location

 

Fiber Route Miles

 

 

Copper Route Miles

 

 

Total Route Miles

 

GA

 

 

10,000

 

 

 

43,800

 

 

 

53,800

 

TX

 

 

9,500

 

 

 

33,400

 

 

 

42,900

 

IA

 

 

8,600

 

 

 

32,700

 

 

 

41,300

 

KY

 

 

8,200

 

 

 

30,200

 

 

 

38,400

 

NC

 

 

4,700

 

 

 

18,200

 

 

 

22,900

 

IL

 

 

3,700

 

 

 

 

 

 

3,700

 

OH

 

 

3,500

 

 

 

10,300

 

 

 

13,800

 

AR

 

 

3,400

 

 

 

11,100

 

 

 

14,500

 

IN

 

 

2,700

 

 

 

 

 

 

2,700

 

FL

 

 

2,200

 

 

 

7,700

 

 

 

9,900

 

MI

 

 

2,100

 

 

 

 

 

 

2,100

 

WI

 

 

2,100

 

 

 

 

 

 

2,100

 

CA

 

 

1,800

 

 

 

 

 

 

1,800

 

OK

 

 

1,700

 

 

 

10,800

 

 

 

12,500

 

MO

 

 

1,600

 

 

 

8,400

 

 

 

10,000

 

PA

 

 

1,400

 

 

 

100

 

 

 

1,500

 

TN

 

 

1,300

 

 

 

 

 

 

1,300

 

NM

 

 

1,100

 

 

 

 

 

 

1,100

 

VA

 

 

1,100

 

 

 

4,800

 

 

 

5,900

 

WV

 

 

900

 

 

 

 

 

 

900

 

AL

 

 

700

 

 

 

 

 

 

700

 

NV

 

 

700

 

 

 

2,200

 

 

 

2,900

 

CO

 

 

600

 

 

 

 

 

 

600

 

AZ

 

 

500

 

 

 

 

 

 

500

 

OR

 

 

500

 

 

 

 

 

 

500

 

KS

 

 

500

 

 

 

 

 

 

500

 

WY

 

 

500

 

 

 

 

 

 

500

 

MS

 

 

400

 

 

 

1,400

 

 

 

1,800

 

Other (1)

 

 

1,000

 

 

 

100

 

 

 

1,100

 

Total

 

 

77,000

 

 

 

215,200

 

 

 

292,200

 

(1) Includes 13 states.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fiber Segment

Uniti Fiber’s network properties include its fiber route miles and wireless communication towers. Below is a geographic distribution summary as of December 31, 2018:

Location

 

Fiber Route Miles

 

GA

 

 

5,700

 

LA

 

 

5,500

 

FL

 

 

5,100

 

PA

 

 

4,400

 

AL

 

 

3,500

 

MS

 

 

2,800

 

IL

 

 

2,400

 

VA

 

 

1,600

 

NY

 

 

1,500

 

TX

 

 

900

 

Other (1)

 

 

1,900

 

Total

 

 

35,300

 

(1) Includes 14 states.

 

 

 

 

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Towers Segment

Uniti Towers’ network properties include its wireless communication towers. Below is a geographic distribution summary as of December 31, 2018:

Location

 

Towers

 

LA

 

 

154

 

TX

 

 

65

 

WI

 

 

25

 

IL

 

 

24

 

AR

 

 

22

 

AL

 

 

20

 

NM

 

 

20

 

MS

 

 

19

 

GA

 

 

17

 

NE

 

 

12

 

KY

 

 

9

 

MN

 

 

7

 

OK

 

 

6

 

PA

 

 

5

 

TN

 

 

5

 

OH

 

 

3

 

NC

 

 

3

 

SC

 

 

3

 

Other (1)

 

 

11

 

Total Domestic

 

 

430

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mexico

 

 

342

 

Colombia

 

 

101

 

Nicaragua

 

 

55

 

Total International

 

 

498

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

 

 

928

 

(1) Includes 8 states.

 

 

 

 

Item 3. Legal Proceedings.

In the ordinary course of our business, we are subject to claims and administrative proceedings, none of which we believe are material or would be expected to have, individually or in the aggregate, a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, cash flows or results of operations.

Pursuant to the Master Lease, Windstream has agreed to indemnify us for, among other things, any use, misuse, maintenance or repair by Windstream with respect to the Distribution Systems. Windstream is currently a party to various legal actions and administrative proceedings, including various claims arising in the ordinary course of its telecommunications business, which are subject to the indemnities provided by Windstream to us. If Windstream assumes the Master Lease, it would be obligated to honor all indemnification claims. If Windstream were to reject the Master Lease, any indemnification claims would be treated as unsecured claims, and, if that were to occur, there can be no assurance we would receive any indemnification payments from Windstream.  While these actions and proceedings are not believed to be material, individually or in the aggregate, the ultimate outcome of these matters cannot be predicted. The resolution of any such legal proceedings, either individually or in the aggregate, could have a material adverse effect on Windstream’s business, financial position or results of operations, which, in turn, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial position or results of operations if Windstream is unable to meet its indemnification obligations.

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Windstream has been involved in litigation with an entity who acquire d certain Windstream debt securities and thereafter issued a notice of default as to such securities relating to the Spin-Off.  Windstream challenged the matter in federal court and a trial was held in July 2018. On February 15, 2019, the federal court jud ge issued a ruling against Windstream, finding that Windstream’s attempts to waive such default were not valid; that an “event of default” occurred with respect to such debt securities; and that the holder’s acceleration of such debt in December 2017 was e ffective.  

In response to the adverse outcome, on February 25, 2019, Windstream filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

In bankruptcy, Windstream has the option to assume or reject the Master Lease.  While we believe that the Master Lease is essential to Windstream’s operations, it is difficult to predict what could occur in a restructuring, and even a temporary disruption in payments to us may require us to fund certain expenses and obligations (e.g., real estate taxes and maintenance expenses) to preserve the value of our properties and avoid the imposition of liens on our properties and could impact our ability to fund other cash obligations, including dividends necessary to maintain REIT status, non-essential capital expenditures and, in an extreme case, our debt service obligations. See Item 1A Risk Factors for additional information concerning the impact Windstream’s bankruptcy may have on our operations and financial conditions.  A rejection by Windstream of the Master Lease or its inability or unwillingness to meet its rent and other obligations under the Master Lease could materially adversely affect our consolidated results of operations, liquidity, and financial condition, including our ability to service debt, comply with debt covenants and pay dividends to our stockholders as required to maintain our status as a REIT. A rejection of the Master Lease by Windstream would result in an “event of default” under our Credit Agreement if we are unable to enter into a replacement lease that satisfies certain criteria set forth in the Credit Agreement within ninety (90) calendar days and we do not maintain pro forma compliance with a consolidated secured leverage ratio, as defined in the Credit Agreement, of 5.00 to 1.00.

Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures.

None

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PART II

Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.

Market Information

Our common stock is traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol “UNIT.”

Holders

As of March 6, 2019, the closing price of our common stock was $8.63 per share as reported on the NASDAQ Global Select Market. As of March 6, 2019, we had 183,103,947 outstanding shares of common stock, 21,340 record holders and approximately 155,003 beneficial owners of our common stock.

Dividends (Distributions)

Distributions with respect to our common stock is characterized for federal income tax purposes as taxable ordinary dividends, capital gains dividends, non-dividend distribution or a combination thereof. It has been our policy to declare dividends to common shareholders so as to comply with the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code governing REITs.

Any dividends must be declared by our Board of Directors, which will take into account various factors including our current and anticipated operating results, our financial position, REIT requirements, conditions prevailing in the market, restrictions in our debt documents and additional factors they deem appropriate. Dividend payments are not guaranteed and our Board of Directors may decide, in its absolute discretion, at any time and for any reason, not to pay dividends or to change the amount paid as dividends.  As a result of recent actions related to Windstream, as set forth in Item 1A Risk Factors, we may choose to reduce or suspend our dividend for a period of time until the situation is clarified.  In addition, during the pendency of Windstream’s bankruptcy, or at such earlier time when certain other conditions are specified, the Amendment to our Credit Agreement (as set forth in Item 1A Risk Factors) generally limits our ability under the Credit Agreement to pay cash dividends in excess of 90% of our REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the dividends paid deduction and excluding any net capital gains.

Stock Performance

The following graph shows a comparison from April 20, 2015 (the date our common stock commenced trading on the NASDAQ Global Select Market) through December 31, 2018 of the cumulative total return for our common stock, the Standard & Poor's 400 Stock Index (S&P 400 Index), and the MSCI US REIT Index. The graph assumes that $100 was invested at the market open on April 20, 2015 and that all dividends were reinvested in the common stock of Uniti, the S&P 400 Index and the MSCI US REIT Index. The stock price performance of the following graph is not necessarily indicative of future stock price performance.

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Click to enlarge

Cumulative Total Stockholder Returns

Based on Investment of $100.00 Beginning on April 20, 2015

 

 

4/20/2015

 

 

12/31/2015

 

 

12/31/2016

 

 

12/31/2017

 

 

12/31/2018

 

Uniti Group Inc.

 

$

100.00

 

 

$

72.33

 

 

$

107.65

 

 

$

84.94

 

 

$

84.93

 

S&P 400 Index

 

 

100.00

 

 

 

92.56

 

 

 

111.76

 

 

 

129.90

 

 

 

115.50

 

MSCI US REIT Index

 

 

100.00

 

 

 

100.78

 

 

 

109.46

 

 

 

115.08

 

 

 

109.89

 

Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

The table below provides information regarding shares withheld from Uniti employees to satisfy minimum statutory tax withholding obligations arising from the vesting of restricted stock granted under the Uniti Group Inc. 2015 Equity Incentive Plan.  The shares of common stock withheld to satisfy tax withholding obligations may be deemed  purchases of such shares  required to be disclosed pursuant to this Item 5.

Period

 

Total Number of Shares Purchased

 

Average Price Paid per Share(1)

 

Total Number of Shares Purchased as Part of Publicly Announced Plans or Programs

 

Maximum Number of Shares that May Yet Be Purchased Under the Plans or Programs

 

October 1, 2018 to October 31, 2018

 

 

300

 

$

19.82

 

 

 

 

 

November 1, 2018 to November 30, 2018

 

 

3,940

 

 

20.10

 

 

 

 

 

December 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

 

 

4,240

 

$

20.08

 

 

 

 

 

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(1)

The weighted-average price per share is the weighted-average of the fair market prices at which we calculated the number of sha res  withheld to cover tax withholdings for the employees.

Item 6. Selected Financial Data.

The following table sets forth selected financial data for Uniti on a consolidated and combined historical basis as of the dates and for the years indicated .

Prior to April 24, 2015, we did not operate the Consumer CLEC Business separately from Windstream, nor did we commence our leasing business. The selected historical financial data as of December 31, 2014 and for the period from January 1, 2015 to April 24, 2015 and the year ended December 31, 2014 has been derived from the audited financial statements of the Consumer CLEC Business and Distribution Systems.

The following should be read in conjunction with the combined financial statements, accompanying notes and Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations , each of which are included elsewhere in this Form 10-K.

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

(Thousands, except per share data)

 

2018

 

 

2017

 

 

2016

 

 

April 24 - December 31, 2015

 

 

January 1 - April 24, 2015

 

 

2014

 

Statement of Income Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total revenue (1)

 

$

1,017,634

 

 

$

916,032

 

 

$

770,408

 

 

$

476,314

 

 

$

10,149

 

 

$

36,015

 

Interest expense

 

 

319,591

 

 

 

305,994

 

 

 

275,394

 

 

 

181,797

 

 

*

 

 

*

 

Net income (loss) attributable to common shareholders

 

 

7,989

 

 

 

(16,552

)

 

 

(5,497

)

 

 

23,718

 

 

*

 

 

*

 

Earnings (loss) per common share - basic

 

 

0.05

 

 

 

(0.10

)

 

 

(0.04

)

 

 

0.16

 

 

*

 

 

*

 

Earnings (loss) per common share - diluted

 

$

0.04

 

 

$

(0.13

)

 

$

(0.04

)

 

$

0.16

 

 

*

 

 

*

 

Balance Sheet Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total assets (2)

 

$

4,592,937

 

 

$

4,330,082

 

 

$

3,318,752

 

 

$

2,542,636

 

 

*

 

 

$

2,588,450

 

Notes and other debt (3)

 

 

4,901,515

 

 

 

4,539,026

 

 

 

4,082,749

 

 

 

3,505,228

 

 

*

 

 

*

 

Total shareholders' (deficit) equity (4)

 

 

(1,493,203

)

 

 

(1,207,142

)

 

 

(1,402,445

)

 

 

(1,166,906

)

 

*

 

 

 

2,580,565

 

Other Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dividends paid

 

 

426,094

 

 

 

400,210

 

 

 

367,830

 

 

 

156,854

 

 

*

 

 

*

 

Dividends declared per common share

 

 

2.40

 

 

 

2.40

 

 

 

2.40

 

 

 

1.64

 

 

*

 

 

*

 

Funds from operations ("FFO") (5)

 

 

373,741

 

 

 

352,477

 

 

 

346,051

 

 

 

259,829

 

 

*

 

 

*

 

Diluted FFO per common share

 

 

2.11

 

 

 

2.09

 

 

 

2.27

 

 

 

1.73

 

 

*

 

 

*

 

Adjusted funds from operations ("AFFO") (5)

 

 

443,755

 

 

 

424,824

 

 

 

398,537

 

 

 

267,077

 

 

*

 

 

*

 

Diluted AFFO per common share

 

$

2.51

 

 

$

2.51

 

 

$

2.61

 

 

$

1.78

 

 

*

 

 

*

 

 

* Information not applicable for periods presented

(1)

For periods prior to April 24, 2015, amounts represent revenues of the Consumer CLEC Business as an integrated operation within Windstream.

(2)

As of December 31, 2014 amounts represent the combined assets of the Consumer CLEC Business and the Distribution Systems.  

(3)

As of December 31, 2018, 2017, and 2016, amount includes $55.3 million, $56.3 million, and $54.5 million of capital lease obligations, respectively.

(4)

As of December 31, 2014 amounts include the net assets contributed of the Consumer CLEC Business and the Distribution Systems.

(5)

For a more detailed discussion and reconciliation of FFO and AFFO, see “Non-GAAP Financial Measures” in Item 7 .

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Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

The following management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations describes the principal factors affecting the results of our operations, financial condition, and changes in financial condition, as well as our critical accounting estimates.

Overview

Company Description

Uniti Group Inc. (the “Company”, “Uniti”, “we”, “us” or “our”) is an independent, internally managed real estate investment trust (“REIT”) engaged in the acquisition and construction of mission critical infrastructure in the communications industry. We are principally focused on acquiring and constructing fiber optic broadband networks, wireless communications towers, copper and coaxial broadband networks and data centers.

On April 24, 2015, we were separated and spun-off (the “Spin-Off”) from Windstream Holdings, Inc. (“Windstream Holdings” and together with its subsidiaries, “Windstream”) pursuant to which Windstream contributed certain telecommunications network assets, including fiber and copper networks and other real estate (the “Distribution Systems”) and a small consumer competitive local exchange carrier (“CLEC”) business (the “Consumer CLEC Business”), to Uniti and Uniti issued common stock and indebtedness and paid cash obtained from borrowings under Uniti’s senior credit facilities to Windstream. In connection with the Spin-Off, we entered into a long-term exclusive triple-net lease (the “Master Lease”) with Windstream, pursuant to which a substantial portion of our real property is leased to Windstream and from which a substantial portion of our leasing revenues are currently derived.

Uniti operates as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes. As a REIT, the Company is generally not subject to U.S. federal income taxes on income generated by its REIT operations, which includes income derived from the Master Lease. We have elected to treat the subsidiaries through which we operate our fiber business, Uniti Fiber, and Talk America Services, LLC, which operates the Consumer CLEC Business (“Talk America”), as taxable REIT subsidiaries (“TRSs”). TRSs enable us to engage in activities that result in income that does not constitute qualifying income for a REIT. Our TRSs are subject to U.S. federal, state and local corporate income taxes.

The Company operates through a customary up-REIT structure, pursuant to which we hold substantially all of our assets through a partnership, Uniti Group LP, a Delaware limited partnership (the “Operating Partnership”), that we control as general partner. This structure is intended to facilitate future acquisition opportunities by providing the Company with the ability to use common units of the Operating Partnership as a tax-efficient acquisition currency. As of the date of this report, we are the sole general partner of the Operating Partnership and own approximately 97.7% of the partnership interests in the Operating Partnership.

We expect to grow and diversify our portfolio and tenant base by pursuing a range of transaction structures with communication service providers, including, (i) sale leaseback transactions, whereby we acquire existing infrastructure assets from third parties, including communication service providers, and lease them back on a long-term triple net basis; (ii) whole company acquisitions, which may include the use of one or more TRSs that are permitted under the tax laws to acquire and operate non-REIT businesses and assets subject to certain limitations; (iii) capital investment financing, whereby we offer communication service providers a cost efficient method of raising funds for discrete capital investments to upgrade or expand their network; and (iv) mergers and acquisitions financing, whereby we facilitate mergers and acquisition transactions as a capital partner, including through operating company/property company (“OpCo-PropCo”) structures.

We manage our operations as four reportable business segments in addition to our corporate operations:

Leasing Segment : Represents a component of our REIT operations and includes the results from our leasing business, Uniti Leasing, which is engaged in the acquisition of mission-critical communications assets and leasing them to anchor customers on either an exclusive or shared-tenant basis.

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Fiber Infrastructure Segment : Represents the operations of our fiber business, Uniti Fiber, which is a leading provider of infrastructure solutions, including cell site backhaul and dark fiber, to the telecommunications industry.

Towers Segment : Represents the operations of our towers business, Uniti Towers, through which we acquire and construct tower and tower-related real estate and lease space on communications towers to wireless service providers and other tenants. Uniti Towers is a component of our REIT operations.

Consumer CLEC Segment : Represents the operations of Talk America through which we operate the Consumer CLEC Business that prior to the Spin-Off was reported as an integrated operation within Windstream. Talk America provides local telephone, high-speed internet and long distance services to customers in the eastern and central United States.

Corporate Operations : Represents our corporate office and shared service functions. Certain costs and expenses, primarily related to headcount, information technology systems, insurance, professional fees and similar charges, that are directly attributable to operations of our business segments are allocated to the respective segments.  

We evaluate the performance of each segment based on Adjusted EBITDA, which is a segment performance measure we define as net income determined in accordance with GAAP, before interest expense, provision for income taxes, depreciation and amortization, stock-based compensation expense, the impact, which may be recurring in nature, of transaction and integration related expenses, the write off of unamortized deferred financing costs, costs incurred as a result of the early repayment of debt, gains or losses on dispositions, changes in the fair value of contingent consideration and financial instruments, and other similar items. For more information on Adjusted EBITDA, see “Non-GAAP Financial Measures.” Detailed information about our segments can be found in Note 13 to our consolidated financial statements contained in Part II, Item 8 Financial Statements and Supplementary Data .

Significant Business Developments

Windstream Bankruptcy Filing.    Windstream has been involved in litigation with an entity who acquired certain Windstream debt securities and thereafter issued a notice of default as to such securities relating to the Spin-Off.  Windstream challenged the matter in federal court and a trial was held in July 2018. On February 15, 2019, the federal court judge issued a ruling against Windstream, finding that Windstream’s attempts to waive such default were not valid; that an “event of default” occurred with respect to such debt securities; and that the holder’s acceleration of such debt in December 2017 was effective.  

 

In response to the adverse outcome, on February 25, 2019, Windstream filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

 

In bankruptcy, Windstream has the option to assume or reject the Master Lease.  While we believe that the Master Lease is essential to Windstream’s operations, it is difficult to predict what could occur in a restructuring, and even a temporary disruption in payments to us may require us to fund certain expenses and obligations (e.g., real estate taxes and maintenance expenses) to preserve the value of our properties and avoid the imposition of liens on our properties and could impact our ability to fund other cash obligations, including dividends necessary to maintain REIT status, non-essential capital expenditures and, in an extreme case, our debt service obligations. See Item 1A Risk Factors for additional information concerning the impact Windstream’s bankruptcy may have on our operations and financial condition.  A rejection by Windstream of the Master Lease or its inability or unwillingness to meet its rent and other obligations under the Master Lease could materially adversely affect our consolidated results of operations, liquidity, and financial condition, including our ability to service debt, comply with debt covenants and pay dividends to our stockholders as required to maintain our status as a REIT.

 

In addition, a rejection of the Master Lease by Windstream would result in an “event of default” under our Credit Agreement if we are unable to enter into a replacement lease that satisfies certain criteria set forth in the Credit Agreement within ninety (90) calendar days and we do not maintain pro forma compliance with a consolidated secured leverage ratio, as defined in the Credit Agreement, of 5.00 to 1.00.

 

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Going Concern . There are conditions and events which raise substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern and in its opinion on our December 31, 2018 financial statements, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, our independent registered public accounting firm, expressed substantial doubt as to whether we could continue as a going concern within one year after the date the financial statements are issued as a result of Windstream’s bankruptcy petition and its potential uncertain effects on the Master Lease . Our financial statements do not include any adjus tments that may result from the outcome of this uncertainty. We expect Windstream will continue to perform on the Master Lease and believe it is unlikely that Windstream will reject the Master Lease because the Master Lease is central to Windstream’s opera tions. We also intend to reduce our capital expenditures and dividend as well as seek external funding in order to sustain our operations. The failure to provide 2018 audited financial statements without a going concern opinion to the lenders under our Cre dit Agreement by March 31, 2019 would constitute a breach of the covenants of our Credit Agreement and, unless such default is waived by our lenders, would constitute an immediate event of default. If an event of default were to occur under our Credit Agr eement, the Credit Agreement’s administrative agent could declare all outstanding loans immediately due and payable. Such an acceleration would trigger cross-default provisions within the indentures governing our senior notes and thereby entitle the truste e and noteholders to accelerate the repayment of the senior notes .   

On March 18, 2019, we received a limited waiver from our lenders under our Credit Agreement, waiving an event of default related solely to the receipt of a going concern opinion from our auditors for our 2018 audited financial statements.  The limited waiver was issued in connection with the Amendment to our Credit Agreement. During the pendency of Windstream’s bankruptcy, or at such earlier time when certain other conditions are specified, the Amendment generally limits our ability under the Credit Agreement to (i) prepay unsecured indebtedness and (ii) pay cash dividends in excess of 90% of our REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the dividends paid deduction and excluding any net capital gains. The Amendment also increases the interest rate on our Term Loan Facility, which will now bear a rate of LIBOR, subject to a 1.0% floor, plus an applicable margin equal to 5.0%, a 200 basis point increase over our previous rate. This increase will be in effect though the remaining term of the facility, which matures on October 24, 2022.

Sale of Latin American Tower Portfolio. On February 19, 2019, the Company announced it had agreed to sell its Uniti Towers’ business in Latin America to an entity controlled by Phoenix Towers International (“PTI”) for cash consideration of approximately $100 million. PTI will acquire approximately 500 towers located across Mexico, Colombia and Nicaragua. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2019 .  This sale will realize value for our stockholders and allows us to focus on growth opportunities in the United States.  Uniti Towers will continue to be a significant component of our strategy to provide a full suite of solutions to wireless carriers and other customers.

Bluebird Network, LLC Operating Company – Property Company Transaction.   On January 15, 2019, the Company entered into an OpCo-PropCo transaction with Macquarie Infrastructure Partners (“MIP”) to acquire Bluebird Network, LLC (“Bluebird”). MIP operates within the Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets ("MIRA") division of Macquarie Group.  Bluebird’s network consists of approximately 178,000 fiber strand miles in the Midwest across Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Oklahoma. In the transaction, Uniti has agreed to purchase the Bluebird fiber network and MIP has agreed to purchase the Bluebird operations. In addition, Uniti has agreed to sell Uniti Fiber’s Midwest operations to MIP, while Uniti will retain its existing Midwest fiber network. Uniti is acquiring the fiber network of Bluebird for $319 million, of which $175 million will be funded by Uniti in cash and $144 million from pre-paid rent to be received from MIP at closing. In connection with the sale of the Company’s Midwest operations, we will receive total upfront cash of approximately $37 million, including related pre-paid rent to be received from MIP at closing. These transactions are subject to regulatory and other closing conditions and are expected to close by the end of the third quarter of 2019. Concurrently with the closing of these transactions, Uniti will lease the Bluebird fiber network and its Midwest fiber network on a combined basis to MIP, under a long-term triple net lease, with initial annual cash rents of approximately $20.3 million. The lease will be reported within the results of our Leasing segment.  The Midwest operations that will be sold to MIP are currently reported in our Fiber Infrastructure segment.

Acquisition of Information Transport Solutions, Inc.  On October 19, 2018, we completed the acquisition of Information Transport Solutions, Inc. (“ITS”). We acquired all the outstanding membership interests of ITS for approximately $59.6 million in cash, including the payoff of existing indebtedness and unpaid transaction expenses. ITS is a full-service provider of technology solutions, primarily to educational institutions in Alabama and Florida.

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Over 30% of ITS’s total revenue is on Uniti Fiber’s network, which is expected to increase under Uniti Fiber’s ownership.   The results of operations of ITS are reflected in the Fiber Infrastructure segment beginni ng October 19, 2018.

Hurricane Michael. During October 2018 Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane.  The storm resulted in significant damage to the Uniti Fiber network in Florida’s Bay County and surrounding areas.  Shortly after landfall we dedicated substantial internal and third-party resources to repair and replace the damaged network, as well as to make enhancements to the network in the impacted areas.  As of December 31, 2018, we incurred $3.0 million of costs associated with the restoration efforts and wrote off $3.7 million of network assets that were destroyed.  We anticipate full recovery of these costs and expense through insurance proceeds.

Acquisition and Lease-back of CableSouth Media, LLC Fiber Assets. On October 9, 2018, we completed the acquisition of fiber assets from CableSouth Media, LLC (“CableSouth”) for cash consideration of $31 million. In the transaction, Uniti acquired 43,000 fiber strand miles located across Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, of which 34,000 fiber strand miles were leased back to CableSouth on a triple-net basis. Uniti has exclusive use of 9,000 fiber strand miles, which are adjacent to Uniti Fiber’s southern network footprint. The initial lease term is 20 years with four 5-year renewal options at CableSouth’s discretion. Annual cash rent is initially $2.9 million with a fixed annual escalator of 2.0%.  The results of this transaction are recorded within our Leasing segment.

Acquisition and Lease-back of U.S. TelePacific Holding Corp. Fiber Assets. On September 19, 2018, we completed the acquisition and lease-back of the California fiber assets of U.S. Telepacific Holding Corp. (“TPx”), for total cash consideration of $70 million.  On May 1, 2018, we completed the acquisition and lease-back of the non-California fiber assets of TPx, which included exclusive use fiber strand miles in Texas, for total cash consideration of $25 million.  The initial lease term is 15 years with five 5-year renewal options at TPx’s discretion. Initial annual cash rent related to the non-California and California assets is $8.8 million with a fixed annual escalator of 1.5%.  The results of these transactions are recorded within our Leasing segment.

IRS Private Letter Ruling.  During July 2018, we received a favorable private letter ruling (“PLR”) from the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) in connection with our request for guidance to clarify the treatment of income the Company receives from certain communication infrastructure assets.  In the PLR, the IRS addressed and favorably ruled that the revenues generated from certain communication infrastructure assets that presently are part of our TRSs would be considered rent from real property.

Dark Fiber Acquisition and Anchor Tenant Lease.  On May 10, 2018, the Company acquired from CenturyLink, Inc. 30 long-haul intercity dark fiber routes totaling 11,000 route miles and 270,000 fiber strand miles across 25 states.  This transaction was approved by the U.S. Department of Justice as a condition of the merger between CenturyLink, Inc. and Level 3 Communications, Inc., and adds attractive, high demand assets to Uniti Leasing.  Simultaneously with this purchase, the Company executed an anchor tenant lease with a Fortune 100 company for 11% of the fiber strand miles.  During August 2018, the Company executed a lease agreement with a national multiple system operator (“MSO”) on existing Uniti Leasing fiber.  The lease term will be 20 years covering approximately 9,900 route miles or 41,000 fiber strand miles.  Annual results related to the agreements are reported within our Leasing segment.

Comparison of the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017

The following tables sets forth, for the periods indicated, our results of operations expressed as dollars and as a percentage of total revenues:

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(Thousands)

 

Year Ended

December 31, 2018

 

 

% of

Revenues

 

 

Year Ended

December 31, 2017

 

 

% of

Revenues

 

Revenues:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leasing

 

$

699,847

 

 

68.8%

 

 

$

685,099

 

 

74.8%

 

Fiber Infrastructure

 

 

289,239

 

 

28.4%

 

 

 

202,791

 

 

22.1%

 

Tower

 

 

14,617

 

 

1.4%

 

 

 

10,055

 

 

1.1%

 

Consumer CLEC

 

 

13,931

 

 

1.4%

 

 

 

18,087

 

 

2.0%

 

Total revenues

 

 

1,017,634

 

 

100.0%

 

 

 

916,032

 

 

100.0%

 

Costs and Expenses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interest expense, net

 

 

319,591

 

 

31.4%

 

 

 

305,994

 

 

33.4%

 

Depreciation and amortization

 

 

451,750

 

 

44.4%

 

 

 

434,205

 

 

47.4%

 

General and administrative expense

 

 

85,198

 

 

8.4%

 

 

 

72,045

 

 

7.9%

 

Operating expense (exclusive of depreciation and amortization)

 

 

137,065

 

 

13.4%

 

 

 

102,176

 

 

11.2%

 

Transaction related costs

 

 

17,410

 

 

1.7%

 

 

 

38,005

 

 

4.1%

 

Other (income) expense

 

 

(4,504

)

 

(0.4%)

 

 

 

11,284

 

 

1.2%

 

Total costs and expenses

 

 

1,006,510

 

 

98.9%

 

 

 

963,709

 

 

105.2%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Income (loss) before income taxes

 

 

11,124

 

 

1.1%

 

 

 

(47,677

)

 

(5.2%)

 

Income tax benefit

 

 

(5,421

)

 

(0.5%)

 

 

 

(38,849

)

 

(4.2%)

 

Net income (loss)

 

 

16,545

 

 

1.6%

 

 

 

(8,828

)

 

(1.0%)

 

Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests

 

 

358

 

 

0.0%

 

 

 

611

 

 

0.1%

 

Net income (loss) attributable to shareholders

 

 

16,187

 

 

1.6%

 

 

 

(9,439

)

 

(1.0%)

 

Participating securities' share in earnings

 

 

(2,594

)

 

(0.2%)

 

 

 

(1,509

)

 

(0.2%)

 

Dividends declared on convertible preferred stock

 

 

(2,624

)

 

(0.3%)

 

 

 

(2,624

)

 

(0.3%)

 

Amortization of discount on convertible preferred stock

 

 

(2,980

)

 

(0.3%)

 

 

 

(2,980

)

 

(0.3%)

 

Net income (loss) attributable to common shareholders

 

$

7,989

 

 

0.8%

 

 

$

(16,552

)

 

(1.8%)

 

The following table sets forth, for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, revenues and Adjusted EBITDA of our reportable segments:

 

 

Year Ended December 31, 2018

 

(Thousands)

 

Leasing

 

 

Fiber Infrastructure

 

 

Towers

 

 

Consumer CLEC

 

 

Corporate

 

 

Total of Reportable Segments

 

Revenues

 

$

699,847

 

 

$

289,239

 

 

$

14,617

 

 

$

13,931

 

 

$

-

 

 

$

1,017,634

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjusted EBITDA

 

$

697,545

 

 

$

123,389

 

 

$

355

 

 

$

3,353

 

 

$

(21,759

)

 

$

802,883

 

Adjusted EBITDA margin

 

 

99.7

%

 

 

42.7

%

 

 

2.4

%

 

 

24.1

%

 

-

 

 

 

78.9

%