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Why Have Frontier Communications Corp. Shares Dropped 20% in 2018?

By Daniel B. Kline - Jul 13, 2018 at 2:06PM

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The company continues to lose subscribers.

Since Frontier Communications (FTR) completed its deal to buy Verizon's wireline business in California, Texas, and Florida, the company has been in steady decline. Frontier spent $10.54 billion to add 3.3 million voice connections, 2.1 million broadband connections, and 1.2 million FiOS video subscribers, more than doubling its size.

Unfortunately, it made that big bet around the time cord-cutting was beginning to become a problem for cable companies. Frontier did gain over $1 billion in cost savings from the purchase, but it has steadily lost customers since the deal closed in December 2015.

A person points a remote at a TV.

Frontier has been losing pay-television customers. Image source: Getty Images.

What happened?

Frontier has been on a predictable path for over two years. It has lost customers every quarter -- then CEO Dan McCarthy made comments in the quarterly earnings release about how things are moving in the right direction. That's exactly what happened when the cable and internet company reported its first-quarter results.

"In the first quarter we achieved growth in consumer revenue, reflecting the early results of the substantial initiatives we have under way across the company," McCarthy said. "We are also extremely pleased with the continued improvement in subscriber trends in our California, Texas, and Florida markets, most notably that we have achieved our first quarter of positive FiOS broadband net additions."

So what

Despite McCarthy's endlessly positive attitude, the company saw its customer base drop by 74,000 from Q4 to Q1 and 455,000 for the past 12 months. Yes, losses are slowing, but that's at least partly because the company has shed so many customers already.

Investors clearly are not believing the turnaround message. After closing 2017 at $6.76, shares fell to $5.36 at the end of June, a 20% drop, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Now what

Frontier seems to have moved past the point where anything its CEO says matters. The company has done a good job managing its debt in order to keep the lights on. Some of the credit for that goes to R. Perley McBride, its CFO, who is leaving at the end of August.

To win back investor trust, Frontier needs to do more than just say things are getting better. It needs to show subscriber gains -- something the company has steadily not been able to do -- and there's really no reason to suggest that will change anytime soon.

Daniel B. Kline has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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