Others might not be that keen on buying Qwest, but the tiny Bell operator thinks its stock is cheap. The company is spending $2 billion on buying back about 11.8% of its outstanding shares over next two years. The buyback represents about 41 days worth of trading. Spending cash to buy back stock reflects how far the company has come under the steady guidance of Dick Notebaert, Qwest’s CEO. The company posted two profitable quarters this year so far.
In the wake of telecom scandals of the late 1990s. Qwest had been given up for dead, but it has made a strong comeback. It made a failed but spirited bid for MCI, indicating its ambitions. When that failed, it went out and bought some smaller operators and CLECs. On my recent visit to Denver, city residents could not stop singing praised of Notebaert, and calling company a model corporate citizen. That took me by a surprise. I think, the company has some things in its favor.
The demographic and population shifts to states like Colorado and Arizona, and the current housing booms in many of the states in Qwest region allow the company to build modern fiber and higher speed networks without worrying about legacy infrastructure. (Of course, it could also be viewed as playing favorites!) Of course as the world goes digital and most content moves online, Qwest’s backbone infrastructure is going to only become more valuable.
Though it would make perfect sense for Verizon to scoop them up, it also might make sense for Q to explore strategic options like going after Embarq, and other smaller but fast growing local players, such as Sure West in Northern California. What do you think?