Shares of regional telecom Frontier Communications (FTR) rose as much as 13.4% in Wednesday's trading session. That peak was reached near 2:30 p.m. EDT, before retreating to a 8.7% gain at the closing bell. A news report says that Frontier is shopping around some of its networks and customer lists in an effort to raise some much-needed cash.
According to merger news outlet CTFN, Frontier has enlisted help from financial advisory firm Evercore to drum up buyers for some troubled but valuable assets. Chiefly, the company wants around $2 billion for its FiOS network in Tampa, Florida, but other markets in Texas and California have also seen some interest from private equity investors. All of these markets were acquired from Verizon Communications in a $10.5 billion deal two years ago.
Frontier might also unload some Connecticut markets if it can find an interested buyer. That segment was acquired from AT&T in 2014, in a $2 billion single-state agreement.
Frontier's attempts to grow by acquisition have not resulted in a stronger business. Customers have been fleeing Frontier's acquired markets due to technical difficulties and substandard customer service. The company's long-term debt load has skyrocketed from less than $8 billion at the end of 2013 to nearly $17 billion in 2017. Over the same period, Frontier's credit rating was lowered from nearly investment-grade quality to a "highly speculative" B3/B- level. If that wasn't bad enough, trailing EBITDA profits fell from $2 billion to $530 million, making it harder for Frontier to service its ballooning debts.
So reaching out for some extra cash makes lots of sense, especially if Frontier can unload some of those underperforming assets in the process. But I still wouldn't touch this stock with a 10-foot pole.