This has not been a good week for the dividend kings of the telecom industry.
Alaska Communications Systems
And then Windstream
The most commonly reported results weren't all that terrible: Windstream met analyst estimates with $1.5 billion in revenue and missed adjusted earnings targets by a hair with $0.12 per share.
But free cash flows shrank 40% year over year due to heavy investment in optical fiber connections to wireless towers. I do applaud Windstream's management for investing in its future -- these expenses should start paying off in 2013 and beyond. But the company had to dip into cash reserves to fund its generous dividends this quarter. Management claims to be comfortable with its cash generation and dividend policies going forward, but this was a scary quarter nonetheless.
Windstream also announced its 25th straight quarter of dividend payments at $0.25 per share. That's not "25 quarters of uninterrupted dividends, and the last one happened to be $0.25." It's literally more than six years stuck at exactly the same payout. If stability is your thing, that's cool. Some stocks aren't this lucky. Frontier Communications
However, true dividend aristocrats tend to increase their payouts year by year, and that's clearly not something Windstream can afford to do. Windstream's 10% yield does not make it an automatic income champion.
Is Frontier's dividend policy permanently damaged or will that yield spring back to life again? Find out what our top telecom analysts think in this brand-new premium report on Frontier. The lessons learned there should help you get a stronger grasp on the industry as a whole, and the report even comes with 12 months of updated analysis for free. Get informed right now.