CenturyLink Earnings: Steady As She Goes

CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL  ) announced its second quarter results on Aug. 6. The big telecom services company posted operating revenues of just over $4.54 billion, up slightly over the same period the previous year. Meanwhile adjusted net profit came in at $408 million ($0.72 per share), down from Q2 2013's $417 million ($0.69).

Although the bottom line was lower on a year-over-year basis, it was still good enough to score a clear beat over the average analyst EPS estimate of $0.64. Sales, meanwhile, more or less met expectations.

These estimates were in line with the company's own anticipations of $0.62 to $0.67 in per share earnings, and a touch higher than its projected $4.48 billion to $4.53 billion in revenues. 

Source: CenturyLink 

Glued to the TV

The convincing EPS beat aside, it wasn't particularly a quarter to remember for CenturyLink. Nevertheless, there were a few developments for investors to cheer about.

The first was a nice boost in the customer numbers for the company's competitive entertainment offering, Prism TV. Taking full advantage of the speedy pipes of its fiber optic network, the firm managed to add almost 16,000 customers for the service, boosting the total to around 215,000 at the end of the quarter.

That, combined with price increases for other offerings,boosted the company's overall take from its "strategic" consumer services -- popular products of the day including broadband, video, and wireless services (as opposed to "legacy" services like local and long-distance telecom offerings, or smaller parts of CenturyLink's business like data integration).

Revenue from the company's various strategic offerings advanced by 5% on a year-over-year basis in Q2 to total $2.30 billion, over half of its revenue.

On the downside, those legacy products are looking like an albatross flown in from another century to drag on CenturyLink's results. Combined, they accounted for $1.8 billion in top line for the quarter, more than 6% lower than the Q2 2013 number. 

Pondering the payout

Meanwhile, there was no indication of what the future might hold for one of CenturyLink stock's most attractive features, and the key reason many investors own it -- the firm's high dividend. At the moment, the company shells out $0.54 per share for a relatively chunky yield of 5.4%.

That beats the distribution handed out by the telecom sector's dominant players. AT&T's clocks in at 5.3%, while Verizon's yield currently stands at 4.3%.

CenturyLink's payout used to be fatter, though. At the beginning of 2013 it was sliced aggressively from $0.725, with the company stressing the need to support its investments. That was an unpleasant shock for investors, who were used to a long history of growing dividends stretching all the way back to 1990.

They reacted by trading the company's stock down by around 23% in the wake of the announcement. Whoops. 

Hopefully Centurylink will be more careful in treating its dividend moving forward. At the moment its business is fairly steady, so there's little reason to believe it'll make another deep cut in the distribution.

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