When Verizon Communications (VZ) - Get Verizon Communications Inc. Report CFO Fran Shammo speaks at a New York investor conference Tuesday, Nov. 10, the company's unit serving corporations and other large enterprises will be a hot topic.
Verizon is reportedly weighing alternatives for the business, which includes the MCI carrier and Terremark Worldwide data center acquisitions, and has a value of roughly $10 billion, according to Reuters. A divestiture would focus Verizon more squarely on wireless and consumer services. Certainly, the audience at the Wells Fargo Securities conference will seek guidance about Verizon's strategic direction from Shammo.
While the assets are valuable and the market for data center assets, in particular, has been busy, there are also questions about how a deal would take shape.
"I don't know who would buy it," said Moody's Investor Service analyst Dennis Saputo.
CenturyLink (CTL) - Get CenturyLink, Inc. Report recently said that it plans to market its data center business, which would make the company an unlikely acquirer of Verizon's systems. AT&T (T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report as a buyer would create a difficult regulatory proposition. A company such as Level 3 Communications (LVLT) focuses more on network transport than on serving mass numbers of end users.
Evercore analyst Johnathan Schildkraut observed in a Monday note that it's a "crowded market" for data centers but noted reasons why sales could be appealing.
Telecoms trade in mid-single-digit multiples of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, he wrote, while data centers have gone for 10 to 14 times Ebitda in the M&A market. For example, TierPoint paid $575 million, or 14.1 times Ebitda, for Windstream Communications' (WIN) - Get Windstream Holdings, Inc. Report Hosted Solutions business roughly two weeks ago.
When CenturyLink said in early November that it would shop its data centers, the company suggested that it can provide hosting and other services without owning the underlying real estate. A carrier could divest of an asset that may not be necessary to its business, Schildkraut noted, and reduce leverage.
Verizon has said that it wants to regain the A3 credit rating from Moody's it had before the $130 billion purchase of Vodafone's (VOD) - Get Vodafone Group Plc Sponsored ADR Report stake in Verizon Wireless.
The carrier is already in line to collect a bundle of cash when it closes the $10.54 billion sale of wireline operations in California, Florida and Texas to Frontier Communications (FTR) - Get Frontier Communications Corporation Class B Report . Saputo said that he expects the company to use close to $7 billion of the funds to reduce debt.
"They are not pressed for cash," he said.
The federal government plans an auction of attractive wireless spectrum licenses early next year. The licenses are in the 600 MHz band, which is a low frequency spectrum that can carry transmissions for long distances, meaning that wireless carriers can space out their wireless towers.
Verizon already has licenses in the 700 MHz band. Shammo said during Verizon's third-quarter call that the 600 MHz and 700 MHz bands "don't play well together" and can produce "a lot of interference."
Spectrum held by Charlie Ergen's Dish Network (DISH) - Get DISH Network Corporation Class A Report in higher bands, he suggested, could work well with Verizon's holdings. "We've said that all along that Charlie is sitting on very good spectrum," Shammo said.
The attractive terms of recent data center sales and the potential to improve balance sheets or focus on wireless may be tempting. Even if the conditions are not right for a deal now, the latest reports provide Shammo with an topical cue to discuss Verizon's strategic direction and capital needs on Tuesday.
Verizon does not have to make a deal, Moody's Saputo said.
"There is no gun to their head for cash for either deleveraging or spectrum purchases," he said.