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Qwest Keeps to Old Playbook

After a four-month strategic review, Qwest (Q) CEO Ed Mueller unveiled his grand plan for the Denver telco: He's sticking with the old plan.

Qwest will continue to work with partners like Sprint (S) in wireless and DirecTV (DTV) in video. The company will also hold with its AT&T (T) inspired fiber-to-the-node network expansion plan that relies on DSL for home connections, Mueller told analysts on a conference call Monday.

Mueller did not share any financial outlook, saving that big announcement for the Feb. 25 analysts' day event in New York. But he did project capital spending would be $1.8 billion next year. That is slightly more than the $1.7 billion Qwest expected to spend in 2007.

Mueller took over the top job when Dick Notebaert left the company in August. While Mueller was not expected to make dramatic changes to the company, his silence frustrated analysts and investors during an October earnings call. Mueller refused to answer questions or offer any hints as to Qwest's business plan or financial guidance.

In a Nov. 27 interview with The Denver Post, Mueller explained that the drawn out strategic review process wasn't necessarily an indication that there were dramatic changes afoot. "We're just taking the whole company and looking at every part of it," Mueller said. "A lot of it is just getting me up to speed."

On Thursday, Qwest revived its dividend plan that had been halted since the 2002 telecom collapse. Qwest says it will start paying a quarterly 8 cent-a-share dividend in February.

Qwest shares were unchanged at $7.01.

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