Level 3 (LVLT) said it will replace CFO Sunit Patel, sending shares down 3% in early trading Monday.

The Broomfield, Colo., wholesale telco service company said it expects to name a new finance chief in the first quarter of next year.

Some observers say the timing of the move suggests that Level 3 may have missed its third-quarter financial targets. Analysts expect the company to post an adjusted loss of 11 cents a share on $1.05 billion in sales, according to Thomson Financial.

Level 3 has piled up losses every year and has been in a perpetual need of outside financing as it hopes to balance the high costs of network operation and falling prices.

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"As the company focuses on ensuring we take full advantage of the opportunities presented by our marketplace, we believe we need a CFO with skills and experience which emphasize both operational and financial management," CEO Jim Crowe said in a press release.

Patel is expected to remain with the company through the transition.

Level 3 shares were down 18 cents to $4.72 in premarket trading Monday.