After being a top contributor in the fourth quarter and adding 25%, Level 3 Communications (NYSE:LVLT) gained 10% for the full year. Over the course of the year, operating metrics continued to improve. During the fourth quarter, company segment Core Network Services’ (CNS) organic revenue grew 6% year-over-year. Within CNS, Enterprise revenue grew 8%. This revenue growth, combined with the synergies created by the merger with tw telecom, resulted in margin expansion. The high contribution margins, which are currently over 60%, have been one of the focal points of our Level 3 investment case and are one of the primary drivers of high growth in both EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) and FCF (free cash flow) growth. In 2016, we believe the company will generate approximately $5.00/ share of FCF before discretionary growth capital expenditures, which translates to approximately 10x FCF on current price. The company’s success-based growth capex is tied to new, high margin, revenue-producing contracts. Given management’s excellent execution, we expect leverage ratios to continue to improve from their current 4x debt/EBITDA levels into the 3x’s.
From Longleaf Partners Fund 4th quarter commentary. Continue Reading »