Broadband pushes up SureWest’s revenue

SureWest Communications’ revenue rose slightly in the second quarter from the previous-year period as the Roseville-based telecom continues to focus on growing its broadband market share, according to results announced Thursday.

Total revenue increased 2 percent to $60.9 million from $59.86 million in the year-ago quarter.

Much of SureWest’s push has been to expand its broadband here and in its equally competitive Kansas City market. Broadband revenue, at $40.26 million, rose 14 percent from the previous year’s quarter, officials said.

The company recently completed its 2009 fiber network expansion and has jettisoned what it calls “non-core” assets, including sales of its wireless segment to Verizon in May 2008 and its wireless towers in February to a Florida company.

Net income fell to $959,000 from the $20.9 million posted in the second quarter of 2008. The 2008 income was largely due to the $69 million Verizon deal.

The quarterly report also reveals SureWest in a cost-saving mode as it works to pay down debt and increase cash reserves as a hedge in a challenging economy.

The company bought back more than 107,000 shares and paid down more than $3.5 million in debt, officials said.

Other savings have come from a combination of staff attrition, reducing office space (including vacating its historic Roseville Telephone offices), and upgrading equipment and technology, said Steve Oldham, SureWest’s president and chief executive officer.

SureWest’s debt now stands at nearly $227 million.

“Moving forward, we remain mindful of the challenges presented by the current economic environment, particularly in California, as we grow the business,” he said.

SureWest is looking at ways to increase income, Oldham said, by building on its broadband market and enticing new customers with voice-video-data offerings.

“Customers are value shopping and there’s fierce competition among subscribers, so we’re continuing to improve our platform,” he said.

Part of that strategy will roll out in December with the planned launch of Microsoft Mediaroom, which will offer video-on-demand, media-sharing and other features. The technology will be available to an additional 25,000 SureWest customers, Oldham said.

Shares of SureWest stock closed at $11.16 Thursday, off 80 cents in Nasdaq trading.