EarthLink Still Patiently Waiting For Deals (ELNK)

EarthLink (ELNK) CEO Rolla Huff has successfully turned the company around after his predecessors burned hundreds of millions on ill-fated investments in municipal wi-fi and mobile. Now he’s still looking to make some deals — but in no hurry.

“Our company’s financial strength and relative value in the technology industry have substantially improved over the past year,” Huff said in EarthLink’s fourth quarter earnings release. “As a result, EarthLink has an expanded set of potential strategic alternatives that we are considering.”

Like what? Last time we heard Huff talk about an EarthLink merger, ideas included United Online, Microsoft’s (MSFT) MSN, and AOL (TWX).

But on the company’s earnings call, Huff expressed disappointment that the rest of the dialup industry wasn’t as interested in consolidation as EarthLink was. As far as other types of companies, Huff said he couldn’t find any other deals worth doing last year. So EarthLink will sit on its cash and wait for the markets to improve — and for a good deal to come along.

Meanwhile, EarthLink posted $216 million in fourth quarter revenue, down 23% year-over-year, and in line with Street estimates. Subscribers dropped 28% to 2.8 million, though Huff says EarthLink’s dialup business is getting a modest lift from the recession. Meanwhile, net income increased to $27.2 million from a $9.5 million loss during Q4 2007. EPS missed the Street: $0.25 vs. $0.38 consensus.

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