Rebounding Level 3 awaits more deal-making

Should a company that not long ago woke up with an M&A hangover go back to have another shot of what ailed it? Level 3 Communications may do just that. The company absorbed several other network operators during a buying binge in 2006 and 2007, but the system integration challenge posed by those acquisitions caused Level 3 to have problems with orders and service activation.

At last month's Billing and OSS World conference in Chicago, Kevin Hart, group vice president and CIO of Level 3, talked about how the carrier had overcome those problems through its Unity integration project. Still, the glitches hampered Level 3's financial performance, helped fuel a tumbling of its stock price, and to some extent cost COO Kevin O'Hara his job.

Yet, at this week's annual shareholder meeting for Level 3, CEO James Crowe, while admitting the poor execution of the last two years (and saying it might not be the last time that happens), said Level 3 may go back to the M&A table again as a buyer within the next year or so. Crowe seems to still firmly believe that he who has the most comprehensive network wins. Crowe has been in charge of Level 3 since its founding and is at once both a visionary and a bit of a throwback to an earlier telecom era. Judging by the climb of Level 3's still-anemic share price lately, investors have faith in him.

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