Can Frontier Hold the Line on Its Dividend?

When we left Frontier Communications (Nasdaq: FTR  ) this past February at its fourth-quarter 2011 earnings release, it had just announced that it would cut in its dividend almost in half (gasp!). Incoming loving investors, including fellow Fool Jim Royal, who included Frontier in "The World's Best Dividend Portfolio," were obviously disappointed. The stock price has fallen approximately 13% since, and that was on top of a 16% decline over the previous three months.

But there was more to Frontier's fall in share price then a cut in its dividend. Weeks before the release of Q4's earnings statement, Standard & Poor's gave a decidedly pessimistic outlook for the company, moving it from "stable" to "negative." And earnings for the third quarter of 2011 fell 30% as it lost subscribers.

So how is Frontier looking as it quickly approaches the release of its first-quarter earnings? Or, to be more blunt, will the company still be able to distribute a dividend?

What's on the Verizon?
Frontier followers are well aware of the carrier's purchase almost two years ago of 4 million access lines from Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) . That ambitious acquisition tripled Frontier in size and made it the country's fourth largest incumbent local exchange carrier by the end of 2011. But that came at quite a cost. It paid Verizon $5.2 billion in common stock and assumed $3.5 billion in debt.

On top of that, Verizon -- notorious for getting the better end of the stick when it sells off its unwanted resources -- passed on to Frontier a bunch of fixer-upper properties that would take time to make work within its own operating, financial, and human-resource systems.

But early last month, Frontier released a statement that the conversion of the Verizon acquisitions into Frontier's own operations has finally been completed. "The conversion ... reduces cost and complexity, improves the customer experience, and facilitates the rollout of new products and services," read the statement.

It may be too early to see the results of the blended operations in Frontier's first-quarter bottom line. But analysts, at least those polled by Businessweek, hold the view that per-share earnings will be $0.06 compared with last quarter's $0.07. They see revenues holding steady at $1.3 billion.

As for Frontier's dividend, we'll be waiting to see what happens with it. In the meantime, for insight into some other income-producing stocks, ask for the Fool's special report on nine companies that offer rock-solid dividends. Get this report soon before everyone else does. And it's free!

Fool contributor Dan Radovsky owns shares of Frontier. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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