Windstream Holdings (OTC:WINMQ) this morning reported results for the fourth quarter and full fiscal year of 2014. The rural telecom and provider of business-oriented data services met analyst expectations on both the top and bottom lines, and spent many column inches to reassure investors that the upcoming REIT spin-off remains on track.
For the fourth quarter, Wall Street analysts expected adjusted earnings of $0.03 per share on revenues of roughly $1.45 billion. Revenues stopped at $1.44 billion, a mere rounding error below the analyst view. After backing out a $128 million one-time charge related to Windstream's pension plan, the Street's earnings consensus turned out to be right on target.
This non-cash charge came from an adjustment to the discount rate used in calculating Windstream's long-term pension obligations. Windstream alumni are also living longer than they used to, which adds to the pension plan's total costs.
"We made great progress toward completing the real estate investment trust spinoff within the next several months, which will make Windstream a stronger, more competitive company," said recently appointed Windstream CEO Tony Thomas in a prepared statement.
The REIT spinoff is expected to close in the second quarter of 2015. That event will make big changes to how Windstream operates and reports its business, and how investors should think about Windstream's meaty dividend payouts. As a reminder, serious dividend investors might want to consider owning Windstream shares before the spinoff, only to sell off their non-REIT shares and reinvest the funds into more REIT stock.
Looking ahead, Windstream's management expects a small decrease in service revenues for 2015. Despite strong trends in three of its four networking operation divisions, Windstream is held back by "revenue pressure" in the carrier division. Since that's also a highly profitable market, operating margins will fall this year as well.
Putting these puzzle pieces together, 2015 looks to be a rough year for Windstream's sales and profits. The game-changing REIT transaction couldn't have been scheduled for a better time. Now it'll be up to Windstream to execute on the promise that the REIT idea holds.