CenturyLink Posts Solid Third-Quarter Results, With a Side of Data Hosting Pain

Shares of telecom operator CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL  ) slid 2% lower in after-hours trading as the company released third-quarter results in line with analyst estimates.

CenturyLink's revenue decreased 1.2% year over year to $4.5 billion. Non-GAAP earnings shrank 4.5% to $0.63 per share. Both figures were exactly in line with Wall Street's targets.

The bottom-line result excludes some one-time items, including a $1.1 billion non-cash goodwill impairment charge against CenturyLink's data hosting business. The division is not delivering the revenue growth and positive cash flows that CenturyLink had expected to reap from the $3.2 billion buyout of hosting specialist Savvis in 2011.

In a seasonally slow quarter, CenturyLink grew its broadband customer list by just 0.6% this quarter. Meanwhile, 1.3% of the company's traditional voice line customers cut the cord.

Investors looking for a bright side might focus on the CenturyLink Prism cable TV service. The Internet-based TV broadcast service was quietly launched in 2010 and has now reached 149,000 paying households. Some 17,000 new customers were added during the third quarter, a 13% increase in a slim three-month window. CenturyLink is making a spirited move on triple-play package sales, ripping a page from the traditional cable provider playbook.


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