Earnings season is in full swing, with huge numbers of companies having already given their latest numbers to investors, and Windstream (NASDAQ:WIN) is about to release its quarterly earnings report. The key to making smart investment decisions with stocks releasing their quarterly reports is to anticipate how they'll do before they announce results, leaving you fully prepared to respond quickly to whatever inevitable surprises arise. 

Many see rural telecom as a no-growth business without good future prospects, but Windstream is doing its best to change that perception. But will the company grow enough to support its huge dividend yield? Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Windstream over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its quarterly report next Tuesday.

Stats on Windstream

Analyst EPS Estimate


Change From Year-Ago EPS


Revenue Estimate

$1.55 billion

Change From Year-Ago Revenue


Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters


Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Will Windstream keep investors connected?
Analysts have stuck to their guns in their views on Windstream over the past several months, keeping earnings-per-share estimates stable for the just-ended quarter. For 2013, though, they've pulled back on earnings by $0.03 per share, and although the stock has climbed 14% since mid-November, its 7% pullback yesterday raises new concerns for the company and the entire industry.

Windstream has managed to keep its double-digit dividend intact despite the cash-flow pressures of having to finance its acquisition of PAETEC in 2011 with substantial amounts of high-yield debt. So far, the company insists that it has the cash flow to cover financing costs and its dividends, even though traditional measures of free cash flow suggest an unsustainably high payout ratio.

But just yesterday, rival CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL) shook the industry when it cut its dividend by more than 25%. Even though Windstream announced last week that it would keep its own quarterly payout stable at $0.25 per share, investors increasingly fear that the dividend is unsustainable, which sent Windstream's stock downward in sympathy.


In Windstream's earnings report, investors should look first at whether Windstream backs off from its assertion last week that it would keep its dividend stable. Any signs of weakening cash flow could further exacerbate the stock's losses.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.