Alaska Communications (NAS: ALSK) used to be a dividend darling. The regional telecom's cash flows were funneled into $0.88 of annual dividends per share, or a majestic 10% dividend yield. Now, Alaska prefers to invest in building a bigger and faster next-generation network, so the payouts have been drastically reduced. Now, the dividend clocks in at a mere $0.05 per quarter. The yield is still a generous 8%, but only because share prices plunged on the dividend cut.
The company reports first-quarter results on Tuesday night. Are shareholders in for another bitter freeze?
Wall Street paints a gloomy picture. Earnings are expected to fall 67% year over year to just $0.02 per share as revenue drops 3.7% to $83.4 million. That would be a trend reversal as Alaska delivered annual sales growth in every quarter last year.
Management didn't hand out any cold, hard guidance figures for the quarter, but it did predict that sales will rise about 3% for the full year, with a tough year-over-year comparison coming up in the first quarter. With the official launch of Alaska's 4G LTE network coming up in the second quarter, management also assumes that some customers might hold off on buying cell phones until the faster network is ready.
Analysts worry that Alaska is chasing shadows with the upgraded network. AT&T (NYS: T) is the largest telecom in the tundra state, and Verizon (NYS: VZ) moves in later this year. Is there really room for a local hero?
The company is doing its best to get some traction on the ice. Other than the 4G LTE buildout, Alaska started selling the Apple (NAS: AAPL) iPhone last week. The stock is priced for absolute disaster here, but I believe that management is doing all the right things to flourish in a tough market.
Look for Alaska's capital expenses trending lower now that the 4G network is ready for action. This quarter should also be a trough in wireless signups and revenues, so management's outlook for the next quarter will look much stronger.
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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorAnders Bylundholds no position in any of the companies mentioned. Check outAnders' holdings and bio, or follow him onTwitterandGoogle+. The Fool owns shares of Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinion, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.