Williams Ponders Bankruptcy
Williams Communications Group (NYSE: WCG) stock lost nearly 60 percent on Monday, after the company announced that it is considering Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to clean up its balance sheet (see Williams Considers Chapter 11).
The company’s stock closed down $0.20 (56.86%) to $0.22.
This news comes less than two weeks after the company reassured investors that it would not default on any loans or file for bankruptcy (see Williams: Blowing Wind? ). On a conference call with investors and analysts on February 13th, Scott Schubert, executive vice president and CFO, said that the company would restructure its balance sheet without “needing to seek bankruptcy court protection.”
But it looks as though the company has rethought its strategy. In a press release issued this morning, the company stated that it is in talks with its banks and other lenders to come up with a suitable solution, which could include bankruptcy. According to the press release, the company expanded its options for reorganizing its balance sheet on February 22nd, after it realized that some lenders, other than banks, would not likely participate in the restructuring.
As of last Friday the company’s debt was already rated in the C category, well below what most in the industry would consider investment-grade debt.
Like other next-generation telecom carriers that built out massive nationwide and international networks, Williams is saddled with tremendous debt. Currently, the company owes its lenders approximately $5.16 billion, with interest payments ballooning to nearly $500 million annually.
If Williams files for bankruptcy it will be following in the footsteps of other carriers like Global Crossing Ltd. (NYSE: GX), which filed in January, and 360networks Inc. (Toronto: TSX), which filed in June of 2001 (see Global Crossing Falls Overboard and 360networks Calls It Quits). Other carriers are struggling with cash-flow and liquidity issues. Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q) recently was forced to draw on a $4 billion of credit and Level 3 Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: LVLT), which is currently trading at around $3 a share, also has investors nervous.
Williams plans to cut its total costs by 25 percent, which will likely translate into layoffs of the same magnitude.
— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading