is trying to speak the language of the Internet, but all investors are hearing is German.
The telecom firm's new CEO, Leo Hindery, outlined to an overflowing conference crowd at the Plaza ballroom in New York Wednesday how the fiber-optic network operator is shifting from bandwidth wholesaling to high-end communications retailing. Certainly that should be a compelling point for the market, considering the stuck-in-a-rut ways of Global shares over the last year and investors' infatuation with Internet infrastructure plays.
Nonetheless, Hindrey's message at the
Credit Suisse First Boston Global Telecommunications conference
was largely overlooked as investors continued to focus on one issue: Is Global Crossing tempted to throw in its lot with purported
? With people close to the talks saying Deutsche Telekom and Qwest's discussions continue, telecom investors have been transfixed by the notion that any deal will go a long way toward determining what happens next in the sector.
In the Board We Trust
For his part, the new CEO was a little coy with his questioners. "Only God and the board will determine if we are for sale," Hindrey said. At midafternoon, Global stock was up 1 at 53 9/16.
While God wasn't available for immediate comment, Global Crossing Chairman Gary Winnick said in an interview after the presentation that the company is not for sale.
"You do a good job and they come knocking," said Winnick, whose company confirmed it's held recent talks with the German telco that is thought to be shopping for a new-generation carrier,
Qwest or Global. "But just because they are knocking doesn't mean we have to go to sleep with them."
Sleepy or otherwise, Global Crossing appears to have reached a pivotal stage of its development. Winnick's company will be three years old next week and in that time has raised $11 billion toward the nearly completed construction of its Asia-to-Europe-via-the-Americas network. But leasing capacity to finance more network construction is no longer the company's primary business objective.
Global Crossing says it is shifting its operational focus toward making sales from transmitting information. Hindery says these efforts will include such data-centric services as hosting Web sites, providing multinational corporations with high-capacity private lines and storing Internet content. Also, according to Winnick, Global Crossing must develop a wireless strategy. Winnick said he is pursuing available spectrum licenses in Europe.
Meanwhile, Deutsche Telekom has set the telecom world aflutter with speculation over its talks, and possible deal, with Qwest. After
The New York Times
reported Wednesday that Deutsche Telekom was backing away, Qwest officials released a statement indicating that the telecom newcomer is still in talks with an unnamed major carrier. People close to the companies identify that carrier as Deutsche Telekom. A company spokesman said he has no comment on the matter.
Deutsche Telekom may not be the only leading international telco testing the waters. Analysts say Deutsche Telekom is talking to lots of folks and it's likely that
are too. These national telcos are casting an acquisitive eye on the new-era carriers such as
Qwest, Global Crossing and
in order to extend their global reach, say analysts.
In This Corner
Talks of a buyout notwithstanding, investors say turning this corner is key to success.
"It's a logical progression from a network-centric company with one of the best worldwide networks, to loading up that network with high-growth bits of information," says Alan Harris, a money manager with
Munder Capital Management
. Munder holds a small position in Global Crossing.
Changing the course of operations is all fine indeed, say investors, but in a period of accelerated global consolidation, the prospect of a takeover tends to overshadow the finer points.
It's only a matter of time before Global Crossing and Qwest get gobbled up, says
money manager Ted Webb, who caught the Hindery speech at the Plaza.
"It's simple," says Webb. "The guys that have the money need the scale and -- no offense to Global Crossing -- it's a cheap way to get scale."