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Report: Frontier Communications may sell its Florida operation

Frontier Communications Corp.'s future in Tampa Bay is rumored to be uncertain. A recent report by a trade publication said that Frontier has hired an outside company to explore a sale of its underperforming Florida operations. Pictured is Frontier's Tampa office in 2016. | [ MONICA HERNDON | Times, 2016]
Published Apr. 10, 2018

TAMPA — Frontier Communications Corp., which had a rocky entry into the Tampa Bay market two years ago, may be on its way out.

A recent report by a trade publication said that Frontier has hired an outside company to explore a sale of its underperforming Florida operations, which have suffered since the company bought out Verizon's FiOS network in 2016.

According to the report, published last Wednesday by CTFN, Connecticut-based Frontier hired Evercore Partners, a New York City-based investment banking company, to help it sell assets, including its Tampa FiOS network. That same day the report came out, the communications provider's stock price jumped more than 13 percent.

Evercore declined to comment on the matter. Frontier also has declined to answer questions about any sale.

"We've seen market trends improve markedly since fall, 2017," Bob Elek, spokesperson for Frontier, said in an email. "During that quarter we started experiencing positive net additions for data and that trend is continuing through (the first quarter of) 2018."

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Frontier moved into Tampa Bay in 2016 after spending $10 billion to acquire Verizon's FiOS network in the area, which provides internet, landline phone service and cable TV.

Early on, it drew the ire of its customers for a shaky transition, poor customer service and widespread network issues.

The network's initial transition from Verizon to Frontier resulted in hundreds of complaints to the Florida Attorney General's office after service to phones and TVs throughout Tampa Bay were cut off and slowly reinstated.

One of the most serious and recent bungles came in February, Hillsborough County commissioners discussed suing Frontier after the company accidentally disabled Hillsborough County's 911 phone service in January for two hours in Hillsborough, Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties, followed by another 90-minute outage the next day in Hillsborough County and some of Pinellas County.

Previous coverage: Hillsborough commissioners consider legal action after county-wide 911 outage>

Frontier has also struggled financially, reporting a loss just over $1 billion for the fourth quarter, which was part of a $2 billion loss for the entire year — its most significant loss in a decade.

The same quarter, Frontier also announced it stopped paying out common share dividends to pay back some of its debts. As of its March filing with the SEC, its debts stood at about $17.8 billion.

Its stock is down about 72 percent from this time last year, closing at $8.70 per share Tuesday. That's up from just under $7.90 at close last Wednesday when it saw a jolt over the day. Its average stock price over the past decade was about $90.

Contact this reporter at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.

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