Level With Me: When Rumors Get Real
Sometimes you hear a rumor so often that you stop listening to it. Such was the case for me with the Level 3/tw telecom deal that finally happened today.
tw telecom inc. (Nasdaq: TWTC) has been a targeted acquisition in the rumor mill for so long that it was hard to take the latest round of rumors seriously. (See Level 3 to Acquire tw telecom for $5.7B.)
Obviously, however, rumors persist for a reason. Consolidation is a pervasive trend in telecom, and this is the latest example of why bigger is usually better for competing.
This deal is good for Level 3 Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: LVLT)'s new focus on enterprise services, because tw telecom is the premier Ethernet services provider in the country, according to rankings from people such as Vertical Systems Group and industry reputation. Level 3 has tremendous fiber backbone resources and content delivery deals, while tw telecom has the local fiber reach and strong business market play -- much stronger than what Level 3 has had in the past.
Twice in the past year I've had executives from tw telecom competitors volunteer the fact that they purposely avoid going head-to-head with that particular service provider -- if tw telecom has direct connections to an office building and is actively selling services there, these two competitors look elsewhere to invest their own fiber dollars. The reason was the level of service that tw telecom was delivering and the recognition that it would be hard to beat.
The question for Level 3 will be how this integration is handled and if the combined company can perpetuate the level of service for which tw telecom has become known in the Ethernet world, or whether the integration process itself becomes an issue.
In the past, Level 3 has stumbled somewhat in managing the integration of large acquisitions -- this could well be a case of seeing what was learned from those previous problems.
As I wrote about earlier this year, tw telecom took a different tack when it absorbed a large fiber optic network operator Xpedius, back in the mid-aughts. CEO Larissa Herda and her team decided to bite the bullet and invest heavily in creating a single integrated backend from a hodgepodge of systems. Will Level 3 maintain this kind of integration and commitment. Does it need to? (See Doing the Dirty Work Pays Off.)
So while this may well be an obvious coming together of two players to create one, much larger, more competitive entity, there are still some questions hanging out there to be resolve.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading