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Lumen Technologies, Inc.

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Msg  117121 of 181508  at  2/12/2013 5:00:00 PM  by


The following message was updated on 2/12/2013 5:01:33 PM.

 In response to msg 117119 by  fkabluejayb
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Re: Another possible buyer

  BlueJay, if only what you are suggesting had a JESUIT PRAYER behind it, it might become true. "But, but, but" when you see Miller opining about this "great thing" they have going on INSIDE Level 3, you can be sure it's going to take an ACT of GOD and The Lord Jesus Christ with Him, in order to wrest CONTROL of this company out of their GREASY PALMS. IMO

Question-and-Answer Session


[Operator Instructions] Our first question is from the line of Simon Flannery with Morgan Stanley.

Simon Flannery - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

First, Sunit, nice job on the deleveraging, continuing to get close to that target leverage. You've got a very strong liquidity position and limited maturities in the near-term. What do you think is the right sort of cash balance here? And are we going to continue to see you take out or extend some of these maturities during the year-end? And maybe a question for Jim as well. Is there an opportunity here to do more M&A, now that you've sort of got the bulk of the Global Crossing integration behind you? I know you've talked about looking at things overseas in the past.

Sunit S. Patel - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Yes, thank you, Simon. I think -- I mean, we're going to keep focused on getting that debt-to-EBITDA leverage down. I think we feel better about down in the 3 to 4 range versus 3 to 5 range. So I think that will -- that focus will continue. Obviously, the -- most of that will be driven by strengthening the EBITDA progress. And I think, from a liquidity perspective, as we've said in the past, we always believed in keeping healthy levels of liquidity. And typically, $500 million or higher balances is what you've seen with us in any quarter. You can look at over the last 10 years. So I think that will [ph] maintain high levels of liquidity and continue to reduce the leverage driven by EBITDA growth. And then, in terms of taking out maturities, as you know, the fixed income markets have been very strong. We're also cautious about what it'd cost to take out debt in terms of prepayment penalties. But I think that, as we look at the second half of this year, we will have opportunities to take some debt out and also reduce cash interest expense going forward. So we see quite a number of opportunities to do that over the next couple of years, which is reducing our annual interest expense. Jim?

James Q. Crowe - Chief Executive Officer, Director and Member of Classified Business & Security Committee

Yes, I'll just add one thing to what Sunit said. When we announced the transaction, the Global Crossing transaction, we identified network expense savings. We identified operating expense savings and capital expense savings. We did not specifically mention interest savings. It's turned out to be quite a meaningful addition to the cash generated by the combination. I think Sunit has said previously, there's an opportunity to save $100 million to $200 million of interest over a longer term, and we're certainly a long ways along that path, so that's been a real upside to the transaction. With respect to your question about M&A, we have Buddy Miller here who runs strategy in M&A the for company. And I'll turn it to him.

Charles C. Miller - Vice Chairman, Executive Vice President, Director, Member of Classified Business & Security Committee and Member of Strategic Planning Committee

Thanks. Simon, you mentioned the use of cash balance for M&A, and of course, that's always -- that's an opportunity. Even during this past year, there's a couple of small immaterial transactions that we did use cash to purchase one in Europe and one in the U.S. Actually, the one in the U.S., the cash hasn't flowed out yet. But we've said all along, we wanted to -- our first priority was to make sure we got the companies integrated and that we maintained the level of customer satisfaction that we'd had, and as Jeff reported, we've managed to do that. We're not declaring integration at an end, although internally, we're ceasing to use that term. But I'd say, we're broadly -- to a point where if you factor in the time required to do a major transaction, we could look at them. And we never stop. And we look at the field for those M&A opportunities all the time. The investor base, and therefore, the people on the call, probably think North America, United States when they ask the M&A question. But the truth is, after the Global Crossing merger, we have a global view -- a literally global view of the merger and acquisition universe, the possibilities that the platform that we've put together, that with the strong concentration in North America, Europe, South America and undersea cables connecting them already makes us unique in the world in the sense of an end-to-end fiber platform where we can literally carry customers' traffic without it drawing off of our network. And without that same emphasis, but nonetheless, with fiber capacity all the way into Asia and Africa, we now see the world differently, as a -- our business is a global fiber -- a local and global fiber platform. And we like where we are. We believe that the -- our ability to grow the business and where we are, ability to just organically add buildings, add routes, add new routes within a city, add new undersea routes is virtually unlimited. And as Jim mentioned, adding those at very high returns. And just by adding salespeople for the network we have and by organically adding network, we have the ability to grow our business in a way that we want to make sure we don't mess up. We promised we wouldn't mess up the Global Crossing integration, but I also promise you we don't want to mess up the good thing we have going. We believe where we are is a very good thing. But that said, there are opportunities. And certainly, if you look at it globally, there are many opportunities. So we're already looking at those. And even all along, in Latin America, we would have been able had we found the right opportunities since there was no 2 company integration that happened down there. We could have already done that. But the right opportunities haven't presented themselves. But if you look at it globally, there are a number of opportunities that will continue to present themselves, but we'll be very, very careful not to mess up the good thing that we have going. And to turn back to the specifics of your question, the use of cash. There's a certain amount of -- as Sunit says, we like to keep a lot of cash around. But certainly, for smaller acquisitions, it makes it easy for us to just go pay cash and be done with it, if we so choose. For anything larger, it's more likely to be a financing, but we try to look at that in terms of the financing from our finance co, which is the lowest-cost form of financing, and that has certain ratios in it for borrowing that would tend to guide to how we would look at it at a transaction. So in general, we're not going to mess up the good thing we have going. The thing we have going is global. But we do expect the industry to continue to consolidate. It's a scale game. And it's a scope -- it's a global scope game. Now when we see the platform we've built as the best one, as the core of a global business fiber network, we'll -- and we'll continue to manage it carefully and look for the right opportunities at the right times.


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