Windstream net income falls 86 percent

Independent telco Windstream Communications saw revenue fall slightly and net income drop steeply during the fourth quarter of 2008, but company officials in their Q4 earnings call this morning touted Windstream's increasing cash on hand and improved cost control as factors allowing the firm to weather macro-economic troubles. The telco's revenue in the fourth quarter was $778 million, a 5 percent decline from the same period last year, while net income fell to $81 million, a tumble of 86 percent from last year.

For the full year of 2008, revenue was down just 2 percent, while net income fell a total of 55 percent. Windstream expects to see revenue in 2009 anywhere from flat, to down about 4 percent.

Yet, the company touted a $100 million increase in free cash flow to $763 million, a figure that was achieved with some help from three asset sales within the last year. Windstream also added about 16,000 broadband Internet customers, and 23,000 digital TV customers during the fourth quarter. Landline loss was about 5.2 percent, which was up slightly, but still a dreamy figure for most telcos. "We continue to lead the ILEC industry [in that area]," said Windstream CEO Jeff Gardner.

Windstream withheld itself from participating in rural telco consolidation over the last year amid a shaky market, despite anticipation from Wall Street that it would make deals. Gardner said this morning, "Strategically, we continue to believe that consolidation makes sense in this industry," and he added that Windstream needs to maintain stability in its own operation to be prepared for buying opportunities that arise.

For more:
- Here's the Windstream press release

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