CenturyLink ‘wants to exit consumer business’, says CFO

15 May 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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CenturyLink is stopping selling its consumer video service and is looking for a buyer for its whole consumer business.

Neel Dev (pictured), who took over as CFO in November 2018, told the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications conference yesterday that consumers make up “less than a quarter of the business” and the company is considering whether to sell.

“The consumer business is doing well. Is there a path to create more shareholder value by selling the consumer business?” he said in an on-stage interview at the event in Boston, which continues today and tomorrow.

Prism, the company’s video streaming product, has fewer than 100,000 subscribers, said Dev. CenturyLink will continue to offer it where there is a contractual obligation but “we’re not selling it” to new customers, though “we’re not pushing people to disconnect”.

The decision to review the future of the consumer business follows a poor set of results last week, when CenturyLink reported $5.65 billion sales in the first quarter of this year, compared with $5.95 billion in the same quarter last year. CenturyLink made a net loss of $6.16 billion in the quarter, compared with a profit of $115 million a year ago.

International sales, represented largely by the group’s acquisition of Level 3 Communications, were down to $891 million in the quarter from $935 million a year ago.

Dev said at the JP Morgan event yesterday that the company is CenturyLink wants to change “the cost structure of the business, with digital transformation”. He said: “It’s all about maximising profit.”

Dev was a former Level 3 executive before the merger. He became interim CFO on Sunit Patel’s departure from the company in September before being confirmed as CFO two months later. Jeff Storey, the CEO, was CEO of Level 3 before its $34 billion acquisition by CenturyLink in November 2017.