Level 3's Communications SG&A

July 10th, 2008 by · 4 Comments

One of the critical numbers to watch when Level 3 reports earnings in two weeks is their Communications SG&A expense.  However, it is rather difficult to figure out what it ought to be due to the noise from one time events and integration expenses.  Therefore, I put together a table to help me figure out what the real trend is.  On the left we start with the reported SG&A number, then we work toward the far right column ‘Total Base SG&A’.  This represents what SG&A would have been a) pro forma all M&A, b) less stock compensation, and c) not including integration and other one time events.  The point is to derive an SG&A that is comparable across many quarters and represents the current state of operations independent of one time events.

Total SG&A Acq Pro Forma total SG&A Stock comp Acq Stock Comp Cash SG&A Integr Bonus accrual reversal Total Base SG&A
Q4/06 365 95 460 32 10 418 20 398
Q1/07 438 5 443 24 419 30 389
Q2/07 428 2 430 24 406 30 376
Q3/07 414 0 414 24 390 20 -15 385
Q4/07 439 0 439 50 389 20 -21 390
Q1/08 418 418 23 395 10 385
Q2/08 408 408 23 385 5 380


  • Acquired refers to the SG&A of Broadwing, Servecast, and Savvis CDN prior to consolidation with Level 3. For Servecast and Savvis CDN there is guesswork involved, but the numbers are small.
  • The Bonus accrual reversals in Q3 and Q4 represent one time benefits to SG&A due to poor performance last year – less cash bonuses than expected.
  • Level 3 did not report integration expenses separately in Q1, my $10M is an educated guess.
  • All of the Q2/08 numbers of course represent my own guess: this is the number I think they ought to hit.

As you can see, Level 3 did pretty well in the first half of 2007, realizing substantial savings – but then they backslid when all the troubles started.  If they are truly progressing on the integration and with the Unity systems, then this number needs to return to the 370s and keep dropping.

But wait, what about growth?  Shouldn’t SG&A go up since revenue has?  Well, total revenue hasn’t, but yes we should keep it in mind.  Therefore here is my derived Total Base SG&A as a percentage of revenue.

Total Base SG&A Revenue (no SBC bonuses) Base SGA as % of Rev
Q4/06 398 1046 38.0%
Q1/07 389 1034 37.6%
Q2/07 376 1040 36.2%
Q3/07 385 1050 36.7%
Q4/07 390 1068 36.5%
Q1/08 385 1066 36.1%
Q2/08 380 1055 36.0%

This table shows essentially the same trend. As a percentage of revenue, savings from integrating the acquired companies stalled in Q2/07 at 36.2%.  To prove they have really gotten past the hump, they need to restart that trend so that SG&A drops below 35% of revenue where Level 3 has said they want to be.

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4 Comments So Far

  • morton dick says:

    They have melded together SG&A & integation expense—there is no point in trying to seperate them as we will never get more info on this .
    I believe the Q1 reported # was 395 mil cash—–I believe we will see a 15-20 mil decline ,with 20 being more likely than 15 . I am basing this on S.Patel’s 5-6% target for SG&A cuts in 08 . Cash SG&A was about 1.6 bil in 07, a 5% cut would be 80 mil . Considering that Q1 rose 6 mil,cuts would have to reach a total of 86 -102 mil in the remaining 3 qtrs of 08 . The rule of 78 requires a strong # in Q2 in order to attain the projected goals .
    I believe Sunit has good visibility in this area & will hit his target .

  • Rob Powell says:

    Mort, you are right on the 395, sorry about that. I have corrected the tables.

    Regarding a cut of 20M in SG&A this quarter, I would love to see it but I refuse to set my own expectations that high. I see a decrease more as about 10M, with more to come as the year goes on.

  • jeremy drane says:


    sunit said that sga would fall ‘mid single digits’ from 1596 or app. 80M (keep in mind we had a slight increase in SGA in Q108). at this point i think your 380 is too high if we are going to reach that guidance. im at 375 and think we could see something even lower than that.


  • skibare says:

    Given the movement of certain forward Indian Troops back across the pond and some of Unity is actually working and fixed……….I see a lower SGA for this and the forward quarters………of course HOW MUCH of Unity is fixed and working??????

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