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Acquisition of Qwest gets Minnesota regulator OK

Minnesota's Public Utilities Commission endorses Qwest's $10.6 billion acquisition by CenturyLink after months of discussion.


By Steve Alexander

Star Tribune

March 3, 2011

Minnesota regulators on Thursday gave final approval to the $10.6 billion acquisition of 14-state telephone company Qwest by Louisiana-based CenturyLink.

Approval for the takeover of Denver-based Qwest, Minnesota's largest telephone company, had been expected, but had been delayed a month to resolve competitive issues. The vote by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission was one of the final hurdles that the two companies faced as they approach a planned closing in April. Regulators in several other states where Qwest provides phone service also must approve the deal.

Under Minnesota law, regulators were required to make sure CenturyLink had the financial and technical resources to run Qwest. Before approving the acquisition, the commission voted to impose six competition-related agreements designed to resolve most of the remaining competitive issues.

Approval had been delayed by a dispute between Qwest and its smaller competitors, a group of telephone companies called competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) that depend on Qwest's network to complete their calls.

The CLECs had complained that the acquisition agreement did not adequately protect their interests in having undiminished access to Qwest's databases of network information. Without that unfettered access, some business or rural telephone customers might not be able to get some services.

While some of the larger CLECs reached separate agreements with Qwest, many others said there were depending on the acquisition agreement to safeguard their interests.

Steve Alexander 612-673-4553