Windstream Confirms Elimination of 54 Jobs in Arkansas

Windstream Confirms Elimination of 54 Jobs in Arkansas

Windstream Holdings Inc. of Little Rock confirmed Thursday that 54 jobs are being eliminated in Arkansas, including 43 in Little Rock.

Sources have told Arkansas Business that the total number of layoffs is in the hundreds, possibly nearing 1,000 over the coming weeks, but spokesman David Avery said the company would not disclose the overall number or the estimated savings from the reductions.

"Decisions that affect our people are difficult. We appreciate the contributions of those whose positions are affected and will provide severance benefits," Avery said in an emailed statement.

"The workforce changes will improve our overall cost structure and enable continued investment in our business. As we position the company for growth, we must ensure that we have the optimal organizational structure in place while making our processes more efficient, reducing redundant systems and delivering robust technology solutions, including SD-WAN and unified communications, to customers."

Windstream had about 13,000 employees as of Dec. 31, including 1,275 in Arkansas.

Windstream's last round of layoffs took place in September, when it cut an unknown number of jobs across the country, including 21 Arkansas. In January 2017, the company announced it would eliminate 164 positions, including 25 in Little Rock. 

The company's last major rounds of cuts took place in 2014. In February of that year, it said it would cut 400 positions companywide, including 67 in Arkansas. Months later, in November, it said it would cut 350 positions companywide, including 38 in Arkansas. The company expected both moves to save a combined $40 million per year.

The moves have come as the company continues to reinvent itself, moving away from its roots as the wireline spinoff of wireless telephone company Alltel Corp. of Little Rock in 2006.

In an interview with Arkansas Business in December, CEO Tony Thomas outlined how the company is now selling new products, developing and owning software and helping customers shift from legacy offerings to new technologies. The transition has been challenging for some investors, who had been attracted to Windstream's long-standing $1-per-share dividend, which the company ended in August.

"We're making investments, substantial investments, to make sure we have an industry-leading product set, whether you’re a very large enterprise or you’re a residential internet customer," Thomas said in December. "I think, when you look at our track record, it’s one that we make decisions that are in the best interest of our shareholders over a long period of time. And I think that is the right recipe for success."

The face of the company has changed along the way. In 2015, it spun off most of its copper and fiber assets into a real estate investment trust, the publicly traded Uniti Group Inc. of Little Rock. And last year, it made a pair of acquisitions: a $1.1 billion all-stock deal to buy Earthlink Holdings Corp. of Atlanta in February, and $225 million cash deal for Broadview Networks Holding Inc. of Rye Brook, New York, in September.

In November, Windstream reported a third-quarter loss of $101.5 million, or a loss of 55 cents per share, compared with a $66.2 million loss, or loss of 72 cents per share in the same quarter of last year. The results missed analysts' expectations of a loss of 46 cents per share. Revenue was $1.5 million, up 11 percent from the third quarter of 2016, but also missed analyst expectations.

But Thomas said the firm's new strategy was delivering "solid results," with strong demand for new products and better broadband speeds for consumers and small businesses, which led to "improved broadband subscriber trends sequentially."

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