Windstream Spins Network Assets Into a REIT
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Windstream today announced plans to spin off certain telecommunications network assets into an independent, publicly traded real estate investment trust (REIT). The transaction will enable Windstream to accelerate network investments, provide enhanced services to customers and maximize shareholder value. The transaction will allow the REIT, which will own Windstream's existing fiber and copper network and other fixed real estate assets, to expand its network and diversify its assets through acquisitions. The company's board of directors approved the plan following the receipt of a favorable private letter ruling from the Internal Revenue Service.
"This transaction will make Windstream a more nimble competitor in today's increasingly dynamic communications marketplace and accelerate our deployment of advanced communications services," said Jeff Gardner, president and CEO of Windstream. "Additionally, the REIT will have geographically diverse, high-quality assets and sustainable cash flows with the ability to grow and diversify over time."
The tax-free spinoff will enable Windstream to realize significant financial flexibility by lowering debt by approximately $3.2 billion and increasing free cash flow to accelerate broadband investments, transition faster to an IP network and pursue additional growth opportunities to better serve customers. As a result of the transaction, Windstream will offer faster broadband speeds and more robust performance to consumers. The company said it would expand availability of 10 Mbps Internet service to more than 80 percent of its customers by 2018. It also said it would more than double the availability of 24 Mbps Internet service by 2018, expanding to more than 30 percent of its customers.
The REIT will be positioned to provide an attractive dividend to shareholders and grow revenue through lease escalation, capital investment and acquisitions.
Under the transaction, Windstream will spin off certain assets, including its fiber and copper networks and other real estate, as a REIT, which will lease use of the assets to Windstream through a long-term triple-net exclusive lease with an initial estimated rent payment of $650 million per year. Windstream will operate and maintain the assets and deliver advanced communications and technology services to consumers and businesses. Customers will see no change in their rates, scope or terms of service as a result of the transaction.
Windstream will continue to have sole responsibility for meeting its existing regulatory obligations following the creation of the REIT. The REIT will focus on expanding and diversifying its assets and tenants through future acquisitions.
Windstream Communications Inc. (NYSE: WIN)