ACS sells most of yellow pages business

Posted: Monday, May 12, 2003

ANCHORAGE - Alaska Communications Systems Group Inc. has raised about $118 million to pay down its debt by selling off most of its directory business.

The owner will be a new company, called ACS Media, that had its initial public offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday. ACS is keeping 12.6 percent of the new firm and its president is taking the helm.

ACS Media will be based in Anchorage. Customers' accounts will not be affected by the change, the other ACS said.

"They're going to see a stronger yellow pages, but aside from that, this is an invisible transaction for customers," said ACS Vice President Mary Anne Pease.

The offering sold 17.5 million shares at $10 (Canadian) for a total of $175 million (Canadian). After subtracting underwriting and other fees, ACS cleared about $118 million on the deal.

ACS President Wesley Carson will lead the yellow pages business. He's been named chairman, president and chief executive of ACS Media and will retain his title as president of ACS.

ACS has been losing money for the past three years, but ACS' yellow pages business has logged steadily improving profits. The yellow pages business had a profit of $11.4 million last year, $10.7 million in 2001, and $8.2 million in 2000. That profit stream will no longer be directed to ACS, but to the shareholders of ACS Media.

ACS has had the largest yellow pages published in Alaska, but it is not the only one. Others include Phone Directories Co., GTE Directories and The Local Pages. ACS Media also faces a new competitive threat in Anchorage.

In January, GCI announced plans to publish its own Anchorage phone book, which will include yellow pages advertising as well as residential listings.

The $10 offering price for ACS Media was the equivalent of $7.18 in U.S. dollars. It drew limited interest on the Toronto Stock Exchange in its first day of trading and ended the session 22 cents lower at $6.96. About 1.5 million shares changed hands Thursday. On Friday, 469,010 shares traded and the stock closed where it started, at $6.96

The ACS Media ticker symbol is AYP.UN. It can also be found in some trading systems at AYP-u.TO.



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