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Qwest considers paying off more debt
Rocky Wire Reports
Thursday, September 18, 2008

Denver-based Qwest Communications International Inc., the third-largest local phone company, may pay off more debt instead of refinancing it because of "shaky" credit markets, Chief Executive Officer Edward Mueller said.

"The markets (Wednesday) will make us have to evaluate any debt," Mueller said Wednesday at a conference in New York.  "We're really comfortable with our cash flow, and being that comfortable gives us a lot of flexibility here to make sure we do what's right for the long term."

Qwest had about $14 billion in debt as of last quarter.  Borrowing costs have surged since the breakdown of the subprime mortgage market last year, which triggered more than $500 billion in credit losses and asset writedowns for banks and led to the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. this week.

Mueller appointed Joseph Euteneuer this week to oversee the company's finances.  Profit dropped 24 percent last quarter and Qwest lowered its forecast after losing phone customers to wireless carriers and digital phone service from cable companies.

Qwest also will be more "conservative" in pursuing acquisitions, Mueller said Wednesday.  A company would have to be a "powerful, compelling" target for Qwest to consider raising funds, he said.