Is Level 3 on Track for a Growth Spurt?

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Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT) reported first-quarter 2015 results before markets opened Wednesday. The communications company posted quarterly diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.35 and $2.05 billion in revenues. In the same period a year ago, the company reported pro forma EPS of $0.30 on revenues of $2.0 billion. First-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $0.33 and $2.06 billion in revenues.

Pro forma results for 2014 include the effects Level 3’s acquisition of TW Telecom, which closed in October of last year.

Looking ahead, the company updated its outlook for the full 2015 fiscal year. Level 3 raised its forecast for adjusted EBITDA from a prior range of 12% to 16% to a new range of 14% to 17% and now expects free cash flow of $600 million to $650 million, compared with a prior estimate of $550 million to $600 million. The company also lowered its estimated interest expenses.

Consensus analysts’ estimates call for second-quarter EPS of $0.35 on revenues of $2.09 billion and full-year EPS of $1.63 and revenues of $8.38 billion.

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In the second quarter, the company expects to recognize a loss of approximately $136 million, or $0.39 cents per share, on the extinguishment of debt associated with early redemptions of several senior notes.

The company’s CEO said:

Level 3 had a solid start to the year, progressing on integration and generating profitable growth. Customers are seeing the benefits of the acquisition, including our differentiated products and solutions, expanded network footprint and customer-first approach.

Last year’s acquisition of TW Telecom for $7.3 billion in cash and stock bulked up the company, making it far less attractive as a takeover target. Level 3’s market cap as of Tuesday’s close is $19.36 billion, roughly on a par with CenturyLink’s $20.8 billion.

Though still far smaller than either AT&T or Verizon, Level 3 was recently touted by Cowen as likely to beat the company’s prior guidance, and that is what happened. Cowen’s price target on the stock was $62, well above the consensus target of $57.75.

The stock was inactive in Wednesday’s premarket, having closed at $54.66 on Tuesday, in a 52-week range of $36.31 to $55.95.

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