FairPoint puts a ‘hold’ on hiring

A recently announced hiring “hold” by FairPoint Communications Inc. will temporarily slow the creation of new positions in New Hampshire.

With the struggling economy, loss of customers and disappointing earnings, FairPoint has “curtailed hiring activity for all but a few key customer-related vacancies,” said Al Giammarino, FairPoint’s chief financial officer, in an earnings conference call Nov. 7.

But the move “should not be considered a ‘hiring freeze’ but a hiring hold,” Jill Wurm, corporate communications manager for FairPoint, told NHBR. “It’s not that we’re stopping hiring completely, it’s that we’re holding off on hiring for jobs for the cutover until right around that time.”

She said FairPoint is still on track to take over land lines from Verizon in late January.

Wurm, who was attending FairPoint’s meeting with New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission at which the firm’s Nov. 12 readiness filing was the topic, said FairPoint has hired 885 employees across New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont since acquiring Verizon’s land lines.

She said FairPoint has hired some 420 people in New Hampshire, but added that she can’t “speculate on how many more will be added prior to the cutover.”

FairPoint’s revenue for the third quarter of 2008 was $328.3 million, a 16 percent drop from revenue of $381 million for the third quarter of 2007.

Adjusted earnings totaled $149.9 million in the third quarter of 2008, remaining essentially flat from $149.2 million for the three months ended Sept. 30, 2007.

A portion of the company’s financing came through Lehman Bros. which declared bankruptcy in September. The company had borrowed the remaining $100 million available under its $200 million delayed-draw term loan facility as well as $100 million under its $200 million revolving credit facility.

After Lehman’s bankruptcy, it effectively reduced “the remaining amount available under the revolving credit facility to $70 million,” said FairPoint in its quarterly filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Despite these issues, FairPoint stated that its credit facilities and operating cash flow allow it “sufficient liquidity to complete its systems cutover and to continue to execute on network expansion plans for the recently acquired operations in the Northern New England states.”

Cash-on-hand on Sept. 30, 2008 (excluding an additional $80.4 million of restricted cash), was $168.1 million.

Cindy Kibbe can be reached at ckibbe@nhbr.com.