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Qwest's credit gains higher investor rating
About $7.8 billion of the company's debt is raised to investment grade for the
By Andy Vuong, Staff Writer
Denver Post
Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Fitch Ratings announced Monday it has upgraded Qwest's credit to two notches below investment grade.

The debt-rating agency also upgraded $7.8 billion worth of Qwest's $14.9 billion in debt to investment grade, the first time any portion of the Denver-based phone company's debt has been at that level since July 2002, shortly after former chief executive Joe Nacchio was forced out.

Fitch, one of three major debt-rating agencies, cited Qwest's margin improvement, ongoing cost cuts and ability to generate free cash flow.

"In Fitch's opinion, Qwest's liquidity position is strong and is supported by existing cash and short-term investments totaling approximately $1.2 billion," Fitch analysts wrote in a report.

Moody's Investors Service rates Qwest at four levels below investment grade and has the company on an upgrade watch.

Standard & Poor's rates Qwest at three notches below investment grade with a positive outlook.

Qwest spokeswoman Diane Reberger said the company was pleased with Fitch's upgrade.

"We're pleased with the recognition of our efforts to reduce debt, generate free cash flow and improve operating margins," Reberger said.

Qwest stock closed Monday at $8.73, up 31 cents.

Staff writer Andy Vuong can be reached at 303-954-1209 or