Qwest Communications International Inc. has postponed the final bidding deadline for its telephone directory business to allow buyers more time to develop proposals to acquire the unit in parts, sources familiar with the situation said.
Binding bids for the operation, which could top $9 billion, were initially due today, but Qwest will now accept final offers up until July 12, several sources said. The Denver-based telecommunications firm expects to declare a winner of the auction by the end of that month, said the sources, who declined to be identified.
The delay is meant to allow the remaining bidders to devise deal structures that would result in their buying the massive phone book operation in two or more parts, sources said.
That would serve the dual purpose of providing debt-heavy Qwest with the quick cash it covets, while giving the company more time to close the deal in certain states where regulatory approval is expected to be more difficult.
Meanwhile, the list of possible bidders for the unit has narrowed by at least one as Yellow Pages marketing company R.H. Donnelley Corp. dropped out of the auction, sources said. Qwest declined to comment.
The Qwest phone book unit, which distributes about 45 million directories in 14 states, has drawn intense interest from a number of bidders because it is considered a recession-proof cash cow.