Why CenturyLink Shares Plunged

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL  ) have plunged today by as much as 23%, tapping fresh 52-week lows in the process, after the company reported earnings and slashed its dividend.

So what: Total revenue in the fourth quarter came in at $4.6 billion, which translated into adjusted earnings per share of $0.67. Both figures were exactly on target with consensus estimates. Of greater concern was soft guidance and the dividend reduction.

Now what: Full-year 2013 is expected to generate adjusted earnings per share of $2.50 to $2.70, making the midpoint short of the $2.64 per share expectation. CenturyLink has revised its capital allocation strategy and the board has authorized a $2 billion stock repurchase program while simultaneously revising its quarterly dividend from $0.725 per share to $0.54. That's a 25% reduction in how much cash it gives back to shareholders, and investors are none too happy about it.

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