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Fitch: Windstream's Data Center Sale a Positive Credit Development
October 20, 2015 / 8:18 PM / 2 years ago

Fitch: Windstream's Data Center Sale a Positive Credit Development

(The following statement was released by the rating agency) CHICAGO, October 20 (Fitch) Fitch Ratings believes that Windstream Services, LLC (Windstream) sale of its data center business could be a positive credit development if the proceeds, or most of the proceeds, are used to repay debt. On Oct. 19, 2015, Windstream announced the sale of its data center business for $575 million in cash, but did not disclose the use of proceeds. Windstream will sell the data center business to TierPoint, and the two companies will enter into an ongoing strategic reciprocal partnership. The transaction is expected to close in two to four months after the customary approvals are obtained. For the quarter ended June 30, 2015, the business generated approximately $122 million in annualized revenue and $41 million in annualized EBITDA. Capital spending associated with the data center business has not been disclosed. In Fitch's view, debt reduction stemming from the sale will not lead to a positive rating action and Fitch continues to monitor the operating trends in Windstream's business. On June 30, 2015, Windstream had approximately $5.7 billion in total debt outstanding. Fitch rates Windstream with an Issuer Default Rating of 'BB' with a Stable Outlook (see the complete list of ratings at the end of this release). Following the REIT spin-off earlier in 2015, Fitch expects Windstream's 2015 total adjusted debt/operating EBITDAR to approximate 5x, with the lease being in place for part of the year, and 5.4x in 2016. This adjusted leverage metric is above the median for other 'BB' companies. Offsetting factors to the higher adjusted leverage include the reduction of outstanding senior secured and unsecured debt, and the cash flow benefits arising from the reduction in interest expense and common dividends. RATING SENSITIVITIES Positive Trigger: A positive action could occur if total adjusted debt/EBITDAR, which will be used as the primary metric, is sustainable under 4.75x. Additionally, revenues and EBITDA would need to stabilize or demonstrate a return to growth on a sustained basis. Negative Trigger: A negative rating action could occur if total adjusted debt/EBITDAR is 5.5x or higher for a sustained period, or if competitive and business conditions were such that the company no longer makes progress toward revenue and EBITDA stability. Fitch currently rates Windstream as follows: Windstream Services, LLC --Long-term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) 'BB'; --$1.25 billion senior secured revolving credit facility due 2015 'BBB-/RR1'; --$581 million senior secured credit facility, Tranche B5 due 2019 'BBB-/RR1'; and --Senior unsecured notes 'BB/RR4'. Windstream Holdings of the Midwest --IDR 'BB'; --$100 million secured notes due 2028 'BB/RR4'. PAETEC Holding Corp. (PAETEC) --IDR 'BB'. The Rating Outlook is Stable. Contact: Primary Analyst John Culver, CFA Senior Director +1-312-368-3216 Fitch Ratings, Inc. 70 W. Madison Street Chicago, IL 60602 Secondary Analyst Bill Densmore Senior Director +1-312-368-3125 Media Relations: Alyssa Castelli, New York, Tel: +1 (212) 908 0540, Email: alyssa.castelli@fitchratings.com. Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'. ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK: here. IN ADDITION, RATING DEFINITIONS AND THE TERMS OF USE OF SUCH RATINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE AGENCY'S PUBLIC WEBSITE 'WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM'. PUBLISHED RATINGS, CRITERIA AND METHODOLOGIES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS SITE AT ALL TIMES. FITCH'S CODE OF CONDUCT, CONFIDENTIALITY, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AFFILIATE FIREWALL, COMPLIANCE AND OTHER RELEVANT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ARE ALSO AVAILABLE FROM THE 'CODE OF CONDUCT' SECTION OF THIS SITE. FITCH MAY HAVE PROVIDED ANOTHER PERMISSIBLE SERVICE TO THE RATED ENTITY OR ITS RELATED THIRD PARTIES. DETAILS OF THIS SERVICE FOR RATINGS FOR WHICH THE LEAD ANALYST IS BASED IN AN EU-REGISTERED ENTITY CAN BE FOUND ON THE ENTITY SUMMARY PAGE FOR THIS ISSUER ON THE FITCH WEBSITE.

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