Windstream's Gardner: We're ready to start looking at acquisitions again

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Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN) may still have work to do to integrate Paetec's assets into its fold, but CEO Jeff Gardner says that they are ready to begin searching for assets that would complement its growing enterprise service business.

Jeff Gardner, Windstream

Gardner

"We're really at a time where we can start looking out at acquisitions again to accelerate this transformation focused on the enterprise space obviously," Gardner said during the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2013 Leveraged Finance conference. "Our last four acquisitions were focused on the enterprise space."

Stopping short of naming any specific companies, potential acquisition targets could include more data center assets, particularly in the Western region of the United States.

"We have done a nice job growing our data center business organically, but we don't have many on the West Coast," Gardner said. "That strategy has been impeded a bit by the fact that the valuations on fiber companies and data center companies have been relatively high."

Gardner added that they have shifted their focus to grow those segments organically and "we have the opportunity to be more opportunistic."

In regards to the Paetec integration process, the last step that's left is to convert its billing systems and back office, which will take place next year.

Gardner said that this conversion will provide it with a differentiator over its competitors in the mid-market business space it serves. 

"The main thing we have in front of us is related to our billing system and our back office," he said. "I think at the end of the day that's going to be a huge opportunity for us because very few large telcos have a single provisioning system from which to roll out services to their customers so what has been a challenge for us has the opportunity in 2014 to be a competitive advantage."

Gardner added these conversions will "greatly simplify" the process for its sales reps because they will be able provision services across one network.

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