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Qwest To Restate $531M In Revenue

Oct 29, 2002 | AP Qwest Communications International Inc. plans to restate $531 million in revenue that was prematurely recorded and estimated it would write down the value of its assets by at least $35 billion.

The disclosures in a regulatory filing Monday evening by the Denver-based regional telecommunications service provider come amid a review of its accounting practices.

Qwest shares fell more than 8 percent, or 28 cents, to close at $3.18 on the New York Stock Exchange. The company is scheduled to release its third-quarter earnings Wednesday.

Qwest's adjustments essentially wipe the slate clean of accounting problems, giving investors a solid basis on which to make investment decisions, said Jeff Halpern, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein.

"It represents the end of what we've seen as a string of bad news," said Halpern, who owns no Qwest stock.

But significant challenges remain.

"Once they get all these accounting issues squared away and things firmed up on accounting, the issue is firming up the debt, and that'll be the real focus for the financial team," said Tom Morabito of McDonald Investments Inc. "We're midway through the process."

Qwest's debt stood at about $26.2 billion Tuesday.

After the markets closed Monday, Qwest said it would defer $531 million in revenue from cash sales of capacity on its fiber-optic network. Originally the company recognized the revenue immediately but now it plans to book the revenue over the term of the agreements, which can range from five to 30 years, Qwest spokesman Tyler Gronbach said.

Of that $531 million, $331 million was recorded in 2001 and $200 million was recorded in 2000.

Also Monday, the company said it estimated it would have to write down as much as $30 billion to reflect the reduced value of assets it bought in its 2000 acquisition of US West. The company said it had found $24 billion of goodwill impairment through Jan. 1, 2002, when the new accounting rule took effect, and might have to write off another $6 billion for 2002.

In addition, Qwest said it expects to book an $8.1 billion reduction in the value of its telephone network, global fiber optic broadband network and related assets and a $2.7 billion reduction in the value of assets related to customer lists and product technology.

Last month, Qwest reversed $950 million in revenue it had booked from swaps of capacity on its fiber-optic network and said the money from capacity sales also might have to be restated.

After consulting with its new auditor, KPMG LLP, Qwest said Monday it will treat cash sales of optical capacity as operating leases and recognize the revenue from these assets over the life of the agreement. Such sales this year will not be affected by the accounting change, Qwest said.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether the swaps helped Qwest artificially boost revenues. Qwest also is the subject of a Justice Department investigation.

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