This year's prize for most likeliest to get bought is being run away with by Zayo. The company's recent organic growth issues and stock price dip has led to extensive speculation that private equity might step in and take the company back private, and I do think it is possible but not anywhere near a done deal. Next on the list are three independent fiber assets: FiberLight is a perennial contender and was also on my list, although Thermo's hands still seem sticky. With its position in the hot Virginia market, Summit IG could certainly choose to cash in. But FirstLight Fiber changed hands so recently (to Antin) that I question their high position on the list. Finally there's Windstream, but I'm not sure who the buyer would be right now in that case.
Of the next five, Cogent seems happy with its current dividend-happy path, Lumos already changed hands recently and seems unlikely to flip this fast, I don't have a feel for WOW!, Bluebird does seem like an interesting asset that might get attention, and Uniti still feels more like a buyer to me but who knows.
Readers are suggesting that the most likely buyers are Crown Castle, GTT, Zayo, Uniti, and Comcast. My thoughts are similar, but I didn't vote for Zayo this time -- for the first year ever. It seems to me that Zayo just might have less appetite this year than it has in the past as it works out its organic growth issues. But it's true that after some 40 deals in 10 years you can never count them out in any list of potential buyers. I also didn't pick Comcast, although it's still possible they step up to the plate for Zayo I guess. GTT is still hungry, as is Uniti.
The next five buyers on the list see CenturyLink, Google, Fatbeam, Amazon, and Windstream. None of those seem as likely just now, at least to me. I'm not sure what CenturyLink has in mind right now, but they could surprise me. Windstream seems busy consolidating what it has, and Google and Amazon certainly have the cash but always seem to have other priorities. Fatbeam is very possible, but of course on a smaller scale.
Anyhow, thanks everyone for participating, and if you haven't already please hop over and chime in! After the polls close in a couple weeks, the results will be featured at Metro Connect later this month.