U.S. West Communications
tried to make a big bang on Wall Street today, but instead the Baby Bell landed with a dull thud.
Traveling to the Big Apple to meet with analysts, CEO Sol Trujillo rang the opening bell at the Big Board moments after appearing on
's "Squawk Box." Armed with a
market survey, the intense, soft-spoken executive said that when given a choice most of his customers would stick with reliable U.S. West to buy their "bundle" of communications services. Trujillo also made an appearance on
's "In the Game."
It was a faintly masked sales pitch, and mercifully
cut to harder news in short order. U.S. West's stock felt little or no effect, inching up 1/8 to close at 31 1/4 today even as other regional bells rose on news of deploying new "ADSL" data technology. In the last year U.S. West shares have oozed like molasses between 27 and 36.
While often on the most-active list, U.S. West stock is not likely to rattle the markets in the coming year. Its talk, though, is big. Officials say long-term growth will be propelled by selling extra phone lines to customers, providing caller-id and other enhanced services, installing data networks for businesses and venturing into wireless and long-distance down the road.
But U.S. West's strategy against imminent local phone competition is to defend the local markets rather than attack long distance, a stance that suggests a company resistant to inevitable market changes.
Legislative changes in the last two years open to new entrants the local phone service market, which U.S. West has long dominated in 14 Western states. Those upstart rivals are negotiating with the U.S. West about leasing parts of its network and interconnecting their facilities. The talks are hung up on the price: U.S. West execs insist their equipment would be farmed out too cheaply.
Ever-cautious, today Trujillo told
that "things are moving forward" on the competitive front. The speed, however, is frustrating to new entrants such as
(T:NYSE), and local commissioners report little progress.
"Things are moving, although not probably not as fast as people had hoped," said Bob Rowe, commissioner of the
Montana Public Services Commission
In the third quarter U.S. West reported operating revenue of $2.52 billion, up from $2.39 billion one year earlier. Net income was $286 million, or 60 cents per share, compared to $287 million or 61 cents per share.
Those numbers tell the tale--big, reliable and not likely to grow much.
By Kevin Petrie