Little Rock-based Windstream said Tuesday that it will separate some of its network assets, including its fiber and copper networks and other real estate, into a publicly traded real estate investment trust, a spinoff that the company said will lower its debt by $3.2 billion.
The network communications firm said in a statement that Windstream will then lease the assets from the trust with rent set at $650 million a year initially. Customer rates won't be affected, and it will allow the company to expand availability of higher-speed internet over the next several years, Windstream said.
“This transaction will make Windstream a more nimble competitor in today’s increasingly dynamic communications marketplace and accelerate our deployment of advanced communications services,” President and CEO Jeff Gardner said in a statement. “Additionally, the REIT will have geographically diverse, high-quality assets and sustainable cash flows with the ability to grow and diversify over time.”
Windstream's board of directors voted for the spinoff, which it described as "tax-free," after a "favorable private letter ruling from Internal Revenue Service," though the company said it still needs final approval from the board as well as regulatory approvals. It's expected to occur in the first quarter of 2015.
Shareholders will keep their existing shares in Windstream and receive shares in the trust "commensurate with their Windstream ownership," the company said.
Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.