Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
So what: At least compared to expectations, the fourth-quarter results actually looked pretty good. Total revenue was down from the fourth quarter of 2009, but the $921 million reported was above what analysts were looking for. The company's net loss per share -- if you exclude a $0.06 per-share benefit from a tax adjustment -- improved from $0.11 in 2009 to $0.09 in 2010. That per-share loss of $0.09 was also a penny better than the average analyst estimate.
Now what: But of course the stock market cares less about "what have you done for me lately?" and more about "what will you do for me tomorrow?" So the fact that Level 3's management projected negative free cash flow for all of 2011 seemed to spook investors, even though the company is projecting growth in revenue from its core network services and EBITDA.
It shouldn't be all that surprising that Level 3 will be making substantial capital investments in the coming year, though. After all, at the end of last year, it joined Akamai
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