Could Consolidated be in Windstream's M&A sights?

After completing its fourth acquisition in six months with its announcement to purchase Iowa Telecommunications last week, it seems only logical to ask what will be Windstream's next M&A target. Although Windstream's CEO Jeff Gardner says that the ILEC obviously needs to digest all of its acquisitions it made in 2009, he said in a Telephony blog post that "a number of private companies could be opportunities for us in the future."

And while Gardner did not reveal any potential M&A targets, financial analyst firm Stifel Nicolaus has put Consolidated Communications and Alaska Communications into the acquisition speculation pot. Out of the two, Stifel Nicolaus believes that while the remote geographic area of Alaska Communications could be a challenge, Consolidated would be the best fit. There are a few things that support such a scenario. Not only would Consolidated help it build out its network presence in Illinois, Texas and Pennsylvania, but it has its own fixed line IPTV service.

Windstream's M&A binge does come with a price. Upon announcing its purchase of Iowa Telecommunications, an acquisition that required Windstream to take on $600 million in extra debt, Standard & Poor's lowered their credit rating down to BB. At the same time, Windstream will be able to quickly snap up other available assets while its independent ILEC peers CenturyLink and Frontier work through the rigors of integrating the former EMBARQ and Verizon's rural assets into their respective folds.

For more:
- Telephony ponders Windstream's next M&A move here

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