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Positive reviews are coming in after Windstream Holdings Inc.'s announcement last week that it has shed the shackles of bankruptcy.

"Windstream Emerges From Restructuring, UNIT Released From Purgatory On Monday," read the headline in an analysis from investment firm Raymond James, using the ticker symbol for Uniti Group Inc., which also stands to benefit from Windstream's new beginning.

Another investment firm called Windstream's exit a "watershed event" that will lift both Little Rock companies.

Most importantly, the long-running legal dispute between the two companies over a leasing agreement is finally resolved -- for good, and for the good of everyone involved.

"This officially resolves all causes of actions and claims brought by either party and accounts for all litigation between Windstream and its creditors during the bankruptcy proceedings," Uniti announced in a news release after Windstream said it was free of bankruptcy oversight.

The statement "makes it very clear" the legal issue is resolved and the two companies can cooperate and produce long-term benefits for both, the Raymond James note said.

Since Windstream created Uniti in a spinoff in 2015, the two have operated as if joined together at the hip, with one analyst who follows Uniti comparing the relationship to the movie "The Defiant Ones," where two escaped convicts are chained together and must learn to cooperate to survive.

Windstream needs Uniti's fiber network to provide high-speed broadband services to rural areas and Uniti needs Windstream to keep the doors open -- Uniti still derives about 65% of its revenue from Windstream.

"Much of the knock on [Uniti] prior to the lawsuit was around the potential from Windstream to go bankrupt, and with that eliminated, we believe [Uniti] can see material upside," analyst Frank Louthan wrote in the Raymond James report.

Windstream exits bankruptcy as a private company with $4.7 billion in run-rate revenue, reduced debt of more than $4 billion and an additional $2 billion in new capital available to invest in its services and products.

As for Uniti, it has gained traction since a federal bankruptcy judge approved the network leasing settlement with Windstream in May. The company's stock has doubled since the end of April and the Raymond James note predicted momentum should continue, pointing out that Uniti has "significant upside from current levels."

As it leaves bankruptcy as a private company, Windstream's majority owner is Elliott Management Corp., a New York hedge fund that controls about 40% of the company and a majority of the seats on the telecom firm's newly appointed board of directors.

In the Raymond James research report, Louthan noted that new ownership should produce positive results.

"Within 3-5 years, we believe the equity owners should have created significant value with Windstream and much of this will accrue to [Uniti] as well as the owner of most of the network," Louthan wrote.

Besides taking ownership of Windstream out of bankruptcy, Elliott Management also made headlines last week by making a play for Cubic Corp., which responded by adopting a poison-pill defense to avoid a takeover.

Elliott took a 15% stake in the San Diego company that provides services to the international transportation and defense markets. Elliott told Cubic it was partnering with another private-equity fund to buy the rest of the company.

Cubic then adopted the poison pill, known as a shareholder-rights plan, to hold off the takeover. Cubic shares jumped 27% on the news and have been rising since.

Reuters news service reported Wednesday that Elliott and buyout firm Veritas Capital have made a joint bid to buy Cubic.

Elliott Management told this reporter in July that the Windstream investment is part of an expansion of the fund's private equity investments. The Cubic bid seems to follow that approach as does the firm's negotiations to buy the Swiss company that makes Otis Spunkmeyer cookies.

FARM AID

Rice, wheat and peanut farmers in Arkansas are now eligible to apply for federal aid under a coronavirus relief program.

For the first time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is expanding the list of eligible commodities under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. The extension includes up to $14 billion in available aid.

This is the second round of funding for the program, which provides financial assistance to farmers whose operations have been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The deadline to apply is Dec. 11. More information is available at https://www.farmers.gov/cfap.

WILDLIFE INVESTMENT

Arkansas is offering more than $735,000 in grants to school districts to promote and encourage wildlife education in the state.

"Education is foundational for economic development," said Commerce Secretary Mike Preston. "These funds not only support enhanced educational opportunities, but they also help us to preserve our state's wildlife for future generations to enjoy."

The grants are intended to strengthen learning opportunities for youths, particularly in rural areas with low education funding available.

School districts can use the grants for the study of general fish and wildlife conservation issues, workshops, archery programs, shooting-sports programs and fishing education efforts, among others.

Funds also can be used for field trips to Game and Fish nature centers, conservation education centers and wildlife management areas.

Visit www.arkansasedc.com for more information.

TEAMING UP

Little Rock marketing agency Mangan Holcomb Partners and sister company, Team SI, are joining forces to better promote its "TraDigital" services to clients.

Sharon Tallach Vogelpohl, who has served as president of both entities, adds the title of chief executive officer in the new structure. The agency will be rebranded and named MHP/Team SI.

Chip Culpepper will continue to serve as chief creative officer, Lannie Byrd will serve as chief operating officer and Alex Hood will be chief technology officer.

Former CEO David Rainwater remains a partner in the new entity and Team SI founder Tim Whitley will be chief executive officer of the parent company that owns MHP/Team SI and other entities.

MHP/Team SI is a fully integrated communications firm with more than 130 employees. The agency has two offices in Arkansas, main headquarters in the Riverdale area of Little Rock and another in Rogers.

Column ideas or recommendations? Thoughts or musings that need pursuing? Contact me at [email protected] or at (501)378-3567.

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