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FairPoint Communications Reports 2011 Fourth Quarter and Full Year Results
Mar 07, 2012 (03:03 PM EST)
-- Consolidated EBITDAR(1) of $250.0 million and capital expenditures of $176.1 million for the full year resulted in Unlevered Free Cash Flow(2) generation of $73.9 million in 2011
-- High-speed Internet subscriber growth continued at 8.4% year-over-year, while voice access line loss slowed for the seventh consecutive quarter to 8.4% year-over-year
-- Workforce reduction effort completed according to plan
-- Net income of $172.0 million for the full year, including cancellation of debt income
CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 7, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- FairPoint Communications, Inc. (Nasdaq: FRP) ("FairPoint" or the "Company"), a leading provider of communications services, today announced its financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended Dec. 31, 2011. As previously announced, the Company will host a conference call and simultaneous webcast to discuss its results at 8:30 a.m. (EST) on Thursday, March 8, 2012.
"2011 was a great year for FairPoint that resulted in a platform for future revenue growth and free cash flow generation," said Paul H. Sunu, CEO of FairPoint. "I'm proud of our Company's ability to stabilize and then improve operations, while generating nearly $74 million in Unlevered Free Cash Flow. Our disciplined approach to capital spending allowed us to achieve our 2011 network plans and still grow our cash balance despite unanticipated challenges that weighed on our EBITDAR, including Hurricane Irene, an early winter storm and new property taxes in New Hampshire on our poles and conduit."
"We've invested significantly in our future by upgrading and expanding our network in northern New England. We now have more than 14,000 route miles of fiber. This next-generation network is at the core of our strategy to transform the composition of our revenue for growth, to win back business customers and to meet the growing demand for bandwidth," Sunu added.
High-speed Internet subscribers grew 8.4% year-over-year, compared to a 0.4% year-over-year increase in 2010. FairPoint added more than 24,000 high-speed Internet subscribers in 2011, compared to less than 1,300 in 2010. High-speed Internet penetration reached 30.4% of voice access lines at Dec. 31, 2011, as the Company surpassed 314,000 high-speed Internet subscribers in service.
Voice access line loss slowed for the seventh consecutive quarter, reaching 8.4% year-over-year versus a 10.3% decline in 2010.
On Sept. 8, 2011, the Company announced it would reduce its workforce by approximately 10%, with planned annual expense savings of approximately $34 million beginning in 2012. This initiative was completed as planned during the fourth quarter. FairPoint incurred $4.4 million in severance and incentive payments in the fourth quarter, bringing the total severance and incentive payments incurred to $8.0 million for the full year.
FairPoint continued its fiber-to-the-tower expansion during the quarter. As of Dec. 31, 2011, fiber had been placed to more than 800 towers.
On Jan. 18, 2012, the Vermont Public Service Board ("Vermont PSB") approved a new Incentive Regulation Plan ("IRP") for FairPoint. Previously, FairPoint had operated under an alternative form of regulation known as an Amended Incentive Regulation Plan, which expired on March 31, 2011. The IRP will decrease the scope of regulation for FairPoint and provide the Company with increased flexibility to compete more effectively in Vermont. Under the IRP, FairPoint's annual retail service quality penalty exposure has been decreased from $10.5 million to $1.65 million and the Company now has pricing discretion with respect to existing and new services other than basic local exchange service.
On Feb. 13, 2012, the Vermont PSB voted to allow FairPoint to redirect nearly $7 million that had been set aside for retail and wholesale service quality penalties toward further broadband expansion in the state.
On Jan. 11, 2012, the Maine Public Utility Commission ("Maine PUC") issued an order regarding the calculation of FairPoint's broadband addressability commitments in the state. The Maine PUC voted two-to-one to define broadband "addressability" in a manner that may require FairPoint to expand broadband service further than it already has in Maine. FairPoint maintains it has met its requirement to expand broadband addressability to 87% by March 31, 2013. On Jan. 31, 2012, the Company filed an appeal with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court seeking to overturn the Maine PUC order. The appeal is pending.
On Dec. 28, 2011, the New Hampshire Public Utility Commission ("New Hampshire PUC") issued an order that allows FairPoint to temporarily increase rates by $0.99 per line per month effective April 1, 2012. The temporary rate increase is intended to help offset an increase in property taxes following the New Hampshire legislature's decision not to renew an exemption from municipal pole and conduit property taxes previously afforded to telecommunications companies. Telecommunications companies had been exempt from pole and conduit tax since 1990; however, unlike other utilities, telecommunications companies in New Hampshire pay a communications service tax to the state. FairPoint estimates its annual property taxes in New Hampshire will increase by approximately $6.5 million and the Company recognized an expense of approximately $4.9 million in the fourth quarter to account for the first nine months of the tax year, which runs from April 1, 2011, to March 31, 2012.
On Nov. 18, 2011, the FCC released its comprehensive and landmark order to modify the nationwide system of universal support and the intercarrier compensation system. A detailed discussion of the FCC order will be available in FairPoint's 2011 Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Fourth Quarter 2011 as compared to Third Quarter 2011
Revenue was $254.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2011 as compared to $257.9 million in the third quarter of 2011. The unfavorable variance of $3.7 million was primarily the result of a decline in access revenues of $4.4 million arising from certain billing reserves established in the fourth quarter, offset by a $1.2 million increase in voice services revenue. The increase in voice services revenue was due primarily to a $3.9 million reversal of certain service quality penalties, which was partially offset by the impact of voice access line declines in the quarter. The finalization of three regulatory developments led to the retail service quality penalty reversal: the new IRP in Vermont, the completion of a service quality penalty audit by the New Hampshire PUC and a true-up of the service quality penalty accrual in Maine.
Operating expenses, excluding depreciation, amortization and reorganization, were $203.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2011 as compared to $213.5 million in the third quarter of 2011. The $9.8 million decrease in operating expenses was primarily the result of the workforce reduction, lower overtime and lower uncollectible expense offset by increases related to the New Hampshire municipal pole and conduit property taxes and severance costs. As a result of FairPoint's workforce reduction effort announced during the third quarter, salary and wage expense declined $5.7 million before a $1.1 million increase in severance and incentive payments. Overtime decreased $3.4 million from the third quarter when the Company incurred elevated costs related to Hurricane Irene. Uncollectible expense declined $3.0 million while operating taxes were unfavorably impacted by the recognition of approximately $4.9 million for the new pole and conduit property tax in New Hampshire, which was partially offset by the favorable conclusion of a property tax appeal in Maine. Non-cash other post-employment benefit ("OPEB") expense decreased by approximately $2.9 million versus the third quarter of 2011, which included a true-up to the full year expense after certain assumption changes.
Consolidated EBITDAR was $70.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2011 as compared to $60.5 million in the third quarter of 2011. The Company made a $6.8 million cash contribution to its pension plan during the third quarter, of which approximately $6.2 million was related to operating expenses. Since cash pension contributions reduce Consolidated EBITDAR, the effect was to increase Consolidated EBITDAR by $6.2 million sequentially.
Net loss was $84.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2011 as compared to a net loss of $279.4 million in the third quarter of 2011. The third quarter included a non-cash goodwill and trade name impairment charge of $262.0 million.
Capital expenditures were $35.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2011 as compared to $35.2 million in the third quarter of 2011.
FairPoint's cash position was $17.4 million as of Dec. 31, 2011, versus $9.9 million as of Sept. 30, 2011. The Company's $75 million revolving credit facility is undrawn, with $62.6 million available for additional borrowing after applying $12.4 million for outstanding letters of credit.
Fourth Quarter 2011 as compared to Fourth Quarter 2010
Revenue was $254.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2011 as compared to $268.0 million a year earlier. The unfavorable variance of $13.8 million was primarily the result of a $12.7 million one-time benefit to revenue taken in the fourth quarter of 2010 arising from settlements reached with New Hampshire and Vermont regulators during the bankruptcy process. Other factors were largely offsetting, such as the unfavorable impact of an 8.4% decline in voice access lines, the favorable impact of an 8.4% increase in high-speed Internet subscribers and the favorable impact of a $3.9 million reversal of certain service quality penalties in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Operating expenses, excluding depreciation, amortization and reorganization, were $203.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2011 as compared to $211.6 million a year earlier. The fourth quarter of 2010 was unfavorably impacted by a one-time non-cash charge of $14.8 million related to project abandonment, inventory obsolescence and other non-recurring prior period items, which was partially offset by a $7.0 million source of income (negative expense) from bad debt in the fourth quarter of 2010 related to certain bankruptcy settlements and activities. The favorable impact of the workforce reduction effort was largely offset by a decrease in capitalized labor versus a year earlier. Capitalized labor reduces operating expense and increases capital expenditures, so a decline in capital projects will generally result in lower capitalized labor and higher operating expense.
Consolidated EBITDAR was $70.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2011 as compared to $84.0 million a year earlier. The unfavorable variance of $14.0 million was primarily the result of a $12.7 million one-time benefit to revenue mentioned earlier. Other factors were largely offsetting, such as the increase in uncollectible expense versus a year earlier and the reduction in employee expenses stemming from the workforce reduction effort completed in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Capital expenditures were $35.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2011 as compared to $40.9 million a year earlier.
The Company's net pension and employee benefit obligation increased from $434.0 million at Dec. 31, 2010, to $690.2 million at Dec. 31, 2011. A lower discount rate assumption and a higher medical cost trend assumption were the primary drivers for the increase. While this may not affect our short-term cash position, it may indicate the need for higher cash contributions in the future.
FairPoint expects to generate Unlevered Free Cash Flow (after cash pension contributions) of $90 million to $100 million in 2012 through a continued focus on improving EBITDAR margins and disciplined capital spending. FairPoint expects that full year realization of workforce reductions will be offset in part by increases in cash pension contributions and compensation expense. The Company may begin making cash contributions to its pension plan on a quarterly basis in 2012 and expects to contribute approximately $20 million for the full year. FairPoint expects to pay approximately $68 million in interest and $10 million in loan amortization in 2012.
Consistent with the first quarter of 2011, FairPoint recognized approximately $13.8 million of vacation expense on Jan. 1, 2012, which will be amortized over the balance of the year as vacation is used.
The information in this press release should be read in conjunction with the financial statements and footnotes contained in the Company's annual report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2011, which will be filed with the SEC no later than March 15, 2012. The Company's results for the quarter and fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2011, are subject to the completion of its annual report for such period.
Fresh Start Accounting
On Jan. 24, 2011, the Company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and its Plan of Reorganization became effective. For purposes of generally accepted accounting principles, the Company adopted fresh start accounting as of Jan. 24, 2011, whereby the Company's assets and liabilities were marked to their fair value as of the date of emergence. Accordingly, the Company's consolidated statements of financial position and operations for periods after Jan. 24, 2011, will not be comparable in many respects to periods prior to the adoption of fresh start accounting.
Conference Call Information
As previously announced, FairPoint will host a conference call and simultaneous webcast to discuss its fourth quarter and full year 2011 results at 8:30 a.m. (EST) on Thursday, March 8, 2012.
Participants should call (800) 265-0241 (US/Canada) or (617) 847-8704 (international) at 8:20 a.m. (EST) and enter the passcode 24096332 when prompted. The title of the call is the Q4 2011 FairPoint Communications, Inc. Earnings Conference Call.
A telephonic replay will be available for anyone unable to participate in the live call. To access the replay, call (888) 286-8010 (US/Canada) or (617) 801-6888 (international) and enter the passcode 28536843 when prompted. The recording will be available from Thursday, March 8, 2012, at 10:30 a.m. (EST) through Thursday, March 15, 2012, at 11:59 p.m. (EST).
A live broadcast of the earnings conference call will be available online at www.fairpoint.com/investors. An online replay will be available shortly thereafter.
Use of Non-GAAP Financial Measures
This press release includes certain non-GAAP financial measures, including but not limited to Consolidated EBITDAR, Unlevered Free Cash Flow and adjustments to GAAP measures to exclude the effect of special items. Management believes that Consolidated EBITDAR and Unlevered Free Cash Flow may be useful to investors in assessing the Company's operating performance and its ability to meet its debt service requirements, and the maintenance covenants contained in the Company's credit facility are based on Consolidated EBITDAR. In addition, management believes that the adjustments to GAAP measures to exclude the effect of special items may be useful to investors in understanding period-to-period operating performance and in identifying historical and prospective trends.
However, the non-GAAP financial measures, as used herein, are not necessarily comparable to similarly titled measures of other companies. Furthermore, Consolidated EBITDAR and Unlevered Free Cash Flow have limitations as analytical tools and should not be considered in isolation from, or as an alternative to, net income or loss, operating income, cash flow or other combined income or cash flow data prepared in accordance with GAAP. Because of these limitations, Consolidated EBITDAR, Unlevered Free Cash Flow and related ratios should not be considered as measures of discretionary cash available to invest in business growth or reduce indebtedness. The Company compensates for these limitations by relying primarily on its GAAP results and using Consolidated EBITDAR and Unlevered Free Cash Flow only supplementally. A reconciliation of Consolidated EBITDAR and Unlevered Free Cash Flow to net income is contained in the attachments to this press release.
About FairPoint Communications, Inc.
FairPoint Communications, Inc. (NasdaqCM: FRP) (www.FairPoint.com) is a leading communications provider of high-speed Internet access, local and long-distance phone, television and other broadband services to customers in communities across 18 states. Through its fast, reliable network, FairPoint delivers affordable data and voice networking communications solutions to residential, business and wholesale customers. FairPoint delivers VantagePoint(SM) services through its resilient IP-based network in northern New England. This state-of-the-art network provides Ethernet connections that support applications like video conferencing, e-learning and other broadband based applications. Additional information about FairPoint products and services is available at www.FairPoint.com.
Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-looking Statements
Some statements herein or discussed on our earnings conference call are known as "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements about the Company's plans, objectives, expectations and intentions and other statements contained herein that are not historical facts. When used herein, the words "expects," "anticipates," "intends," "plans," "believes," "seeks," "estimates" and similar expressions are generally intended to identify forward-looking statements. Because these forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties, there are important factors that could cause actual results, events or developments to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements, including the Company's plans, objectives, expectations and intentions and other factors. You should not place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements, which are based on the information currently available to us and speak only as of the date hereof. The Company does not undertake any obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. However, your attention is directed to any further disclosures made on related subjects in the Company's subsequent reports filed with the SEC.
Certain information contained herein or discussed on our earnings conference call may constitute guidance as to projected financial results and the Company's future performance that represents management's estimates as of the date hereof. This guidance, which consists of forward-looking statements, is prepared by the Company's management and is qualified by, and subject to, certain assumptions. Guidance is not prepared with a view toward compliance with published guidelines of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and neither the Company's independent registered public accounting firm nor any other independent expert or outside party compiles or examines the guidance and, accordingly, no such person expresses any opinion or any other form of assurance with respect thereto. Guidance is based upon a number of assumptions and estimates that, while presented with numerical specificity, are inherently subject to significant business, economic and competitive uncertainties and contingencies, many of which are beyond the Company's control and are based upon specific assumptions with respect to future business decisions, some of which will change. Management generally states possible outcomes as high and low ranges which are intended to provide a sensitivity analysis as variables are changed but are not intended to represent actual results, which could fall outside of the suggested ranges. The principal reason that the Company releases this data is to provide a basis for management to discuss the Company's business outlook with analysts and investors. The Company does not accept any responsibility for any projections or reports published by any such outside analysts or investors. Guidance is necessarily speculative in nature, and it can be expected that some or all of the assumptions of the guidance furnished by us will not materialize or will vary significantly from actual results. Accordingly, the Company's guidance is only an estimate of what management believes is realizable as of the date hereof. Actual results will vary from the guidance and the variations may be material. Investors should also recognize that the reliability of any forecasted financial data diminishes the farther in the future that the data is forecast. In light of the foregoing, investors are urged to put the guidance in context and not to place undue reliance on it.
(1) Consolidated EBITDAR means earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and restructuring items as defined in the Company's credit facility. Consolidated EBITDAR is a non-GAAP financial measure. A reconciliation of Consolidated EBITDAR to net income is contained in the attachments to this press release.
(2) Unlevered Free Cash Flow means Consolidated EBITDAR minus capital expenditures. Unlevered Free Cash Flow is a non-GAAP financial measure. A reconciliation of Unlevered Free Cash Flow to net income is contained in the attachments to this press release.
SOURCE FairPoint Communications, Inc.