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Williams Comms. Thinks About Bankruptcy

Tulsa, Okla.-based optical-network provider Williams Communications Group said it is considering filing for a negotiated bankruptcy as a way to bolster its bottom line.

While the company has been mulling various restructuring offerings, Williams' Chief Financial Officer Scott Schubert was on the record as late as Feb. 13 as saying that a reorganization plan would not include bankruptcy or a substantial dilution of equity, Dow Jones said.

Williams' discussions are being expanded to include "multiple restructuring options," the details of which were not immediately available. But the expanded options now being considered could potentially result in "substantial shareholder dilution."

No matter what route the company takes, it plans to reduce its current controllable cost structure by approximately 25 percent, "which will include workforce reductions," officials said in a statement released this morning.

In addition, the company has authorized its legal and financial advisers to discuss restructuring options with the holders of certain of its notes.

Williams also said it is considering bankruptcy because "certain institutions other than the banks are not likely to participate in the restructuring process on terms that are beneficial to all stakeholders of the company." A Chapter 11 filing would support uninterrupted continuation of the business and minimize any impact to customer and vendor relationships, Williams also said.

The company may decide to pursue Chapter 11 "if it believes it will allow for a more orderly process that maximizes enterprise value."

"Williams Communications continues to have a productive dialogue with its banks," said Williams Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Howard Janzen, in a statement today. "We firmly believe that this dialogue will enable us to meet the current challenges of the telecommunications marketplace and, ultimately, to thrive.''

Janzen believes the company has sufficient cash -- over $1 billion as of the end of last year -- to fund its business plan through 2003. "In addition, we are current on all of our obligations," Janzen also said.

As it mulls bankruptcy, Williams was quick to point out that it has signed contracts with Verizon, Yahoo and KDDI America. And as of the fourth quarter of 2001, the company recorded 16 consecutive quarters of sequential network services revenue growth.

Williams would join companies like Global Crossing if it filed for bankruptcy.