Windstream CEO: 'Not the Same Telephone Company You Invested in 4 Years Ago'

While 2010 was a year that saw Windstream Corp. of Little Rock make four major acquisitions, the focus in 2011 is on integrating those purchases, investing for more growth and reducing leverage at the company, CEO and President Jeff Gardner said at the company's annual shareholders meeting today.

The acquisitions were carefully considered and are part of a strategy to shift the focus of the company away from residential landline service and to increase its broadband and business services segments.

"We are not the same telephone company you invested in four years ago," Gardner told shareholders.

Windstream will report its first quarter earnings for the year this afternoon after markets have closed. will report on the earnings later today.

(Click here and here for recent Arkansas Business coverage of Windstream.)

But just because Windstream is focusing on integration and deleveraging its balance sheet doesn't mean it won't be looking for more purchases.

One of the areas the company has pursued is wireless backhaul, the selling of fiber-to-cell-site service to the wireless carriers.

"All that fiber business will be won and lost in the next one to two years," Gardner said. "So we're going to be aggressive going after it."

As AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon continue their transition to 4G wireless service, they'll need more fiber capacity to handle the load from all those millions of smartphones and tablet computers.

"Our two biggest customers are AT&T and Verizon, and they have wireless everywhere, so you can bet that wherever we are, they are too," Gardner said. "We're trying to do as much business with them as we can. As long as we do it right, price it fairly and execute, which we have, they really like doing business with us. We should be in good shape to get a lot of that business."


* Reelected all nine directors

* Approved Windstream's executive compensation plan

* Approved annual voting on executive compensation, which the board supported

* Approved PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP as the company's independent

* Defeated a shareholder proposal to allow cumulative shareholder voting in cases of disputed election of directors

* Defeated a proposal that would have required Windstream to disclose spending on political activities