2012: The Year Windstream Got the Air Knocked Out of It

In these waning days of 2012, there's a chill in the air and snow in the forecast. What better time of year to curl up by the fire and ponder: What went wrong with the stocks you picked back in January? What went right? And should you keep these stocks in your portfolio, or go out and find something new?

That's what we aim to do today, as we flip back the calendar, and consider the year that was at Windstream .

A few Foolish facts about Windstream

Year-to-Date Stock Return

(23.8%)

P/E

35.3

Dividend Yield

11.3%

1-Year Revenue Growth (YTD)

50.7%

1-Year Profit Growth (YTD)

(15.5%)

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

***


Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

What happened at Windstream this year?
Solidly profitable and boasting a dividend yield of 11.4%, you'd think rural telecom services provider Windstream would be a bit more popular with investors in today's yield-hungry environment. Instead, here we sit at the tail end of 2012, with Windstream lagging the rest of the market by a good 40 percentage points, and stuck with an anemic three- star rating on CAPS. What went wrong?

Actually, things started out pretty well for Windstream in 2012, with the stock notching a respectable 6% gain in the first couple of months. If the stock had managed to keep that up for the remainder of the year, then right about now we'd be looking at a 36% gainer, instead of a 24% loser. Alas, it was not to be.

Worries that Windstream might be forced to follow fellow telco Frontier Communications in cutting its dividend never quite materialized. (At least, not yet.) But in attempting to grow its network and compete with larger rivals AT&T and Verizon on the national stage (by buying PAETEC), Windstream strained its balance sheet with a large slug of debt. True, the acquisition brought with it great gobs of incremental revenue (see the table above) -- but it also brought a turn to net losses (see also above).

By May, this was becoming evident, as Windstream reported revenue and earnings less than Wall Street had expected, sparking a one-day 16% sell-off. Meanwhile, investors continue to grumble over the fact that Windstream's weak profits currently suffice to cover just one quarter of the dividends it's promised to pay out.

As 2012 draws to a close, and 2013 begins, don't expect those worries to abate. At least, not until Windstream shows itself capable of generating far more profit than it's done so far. Or until the worries become actually, and Windstream puts the inevitable dividend cut behind it.

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The article 2012: The Year Windstream Got the Air Knocked Out of It originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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