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It Had to Happen: Frontier Communications Cuts Dividend by 62%

The worst performing S&P 500 stock of the first quarter of 2017 was Frontier Communications Corp. (NASDAQ: FTR). Shares were down 34.1% at the end of March. At Tuesday’s closing bell the stock was down 42.6% year to date.

And it’s getting worse. The company reported first-quarter results after the bell and the big news was a cut to the quarterly dividend from $0.105 per share to $0.04 per share, a 62% reduction.

Frontier posted first-quarter revenues of $2.36 billion and a net loss per share of $0.11. Analysts had estimated a net loss per share of $0.05 and revenues of $2.35 billion. In the year-ago quarter, Frontier reported revenues of $1.36 billion and a net loss of $0.21 per share.

For the 2017 fiscal year Frontier forecast adjusted free cash flow of $800 million to $1 billion and capex of $1 to $1.25 billion. Analysts are looking for a second-quarter net loss of $0.05 and revenues of $2.33 billion. For the full year, analysts see a net loss of $0.18 and revenues of $9.25 billion.

But the story for Frontier is the dividend. At the old rate Frontier’s dividend yield was more than 22%. The only surprises here are how long it took for the cut to happen and that there’s any dividend left at all for common stockholders. Here’s what the company had to say in its earnings press release:

This change allows for reallocation of approximately $300 million annually, increasing to approximately $400 million annually in the second half of 2018 following the conversion of the mandatory convertible Series A Preferred Stock to common stock. Frontier plans to use these proceeds primarily to repay debt, with the goal of lowering the leverage ratio from 4.39x to 4.0x by the end of 2019, and 3.5x by the end of 2021.

The company also plans to issue additional secured debt in the current quarter and plans to use the proceeds to “address maturities and reduce interest expense.”

Investors are voting with their feet — again. Shares are down about 7.8% in Tuesday’s after-hours session at $1.78 after closing at $1.94. The stock’s 52-week range is $1.81 to $5.53 and the consensus 12-month price target was $3.15 before the results were announced.