Why Did Frontier Communications Corp. Shares Drop 30% in May?

6/5/17

By Daniel B. Kline, MotleyFool

For Frontier Communications (NASDAQ:FTR) shareholders, May was another lousy month in what has been a series of them. Even though the company showed some signs of stabilizing its customer losses, that was not enough to overcome the bad news it delivered when it reported first-quarter earnings on May 2.

What happened

After announcing previously that its stock would do a 1-for-15 reverse split in order for the company to avoid running the risk of being delisted, Frontier further angered shareholders by cutting its dividend. The quarterly payout was lowered from $0.105 to $0.04 per share. CEO Daniel McCarthy explained the move in his remarks in the first-quarter earnings release.

"Our board regularly reviews the company's long-term capital allocation strategy, and it has determined to reduce the dividend at this time to provide additional financial flexibility, while still returning a meaningful cash dividend to shareholders," he said.

FTR Chart

IMAGE SOURCE: YCHARTS.

So what

Shareholders did not like the company's results, nor were they happy with the dividend cut. In the first quarter, the cable, internet, and phone provider saw its residential subscriber base drop from 4.89 million at the close of fiscal 2016 to 4.73 million at the close of the first quarter. The company also lost 18,000 business customers and saw its revenue fall to $2.35 billion from $2.4 billion.

Put all of that bad news together, and nearly any company would see its stock price fall. In this case, after closing April at $1.88, shares finished May at $1.31, a 30% drop, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

A remote control is pointed at a TV.

FRONTIER HAS BEEN LOSING VIDEO SUBSCRIBERS. IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Now what

Frontier has to show that it can not only stop its losses, but that it has some chance of gaining customers. That seems far-fetched in video, where industry trends have generally been pointing downward because of cord cutting. In broadband, though, most providers have been gaining customers, although Frontier hasn't.

McCarthy has done a good job managing money to buy himself time, but the cut in the dividend may have cost him any patience his shareholders had. Going forward, the CEO needs to show he can do more than cut expenses. He has to start posting subscriber gains, or Frontier could see its stock price fall even further.

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