Alliance Capital Management L.P. and its French parent AXA Financial have accumulated 10.9 percent of the stock in WorldCom Inc., the beleaguered telephone and data network company.
AXA, an insurance and financial services company, filed documents Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission showing it held 321.8 million shares of WorldCom as of May 31. All but about 300,000 of those shares are held by Alliance Capital on behalf of its investor clients.
The SEC filing did not show how much was paid for the stock, which has lost 90 percent of its value over the past year, or during what period it was accumulated.
On Tuesday, WorldCom's stock was unchanged at $1.60 per share, giving AXA's holdings a value of about $515 million.
WorldCom has been battered by plunging revenues in its MCI long-distance calling business and the collapse in demand for Internet capacity and services. The company, which is slashing thousands of jobs and shedding operations to pay down its $30 billion debt, is also the target of an SEC probe into its accounting practices.
Analysts said the AXA purchases could give the financial company the voting power needed to influence decisions by WorldCom's board of directors or to possibly bid for control of the company. Experts said such actions were unlikely, suggesting instead that the purchases could be seen as a show of faith in WorldCom's long-term prospects.
"They are not strategic investors,'' said Fitch Ratings analyst Michael Barry, referring to those investors who buy large stakes in a company with an eye toward a takeover.
Barry said AXA only does that with financial and insurance companies.
"If they made a move here, it's on the merits (of WorldCom) as an investment,'' Barry said.
WorldCom officials are expected to spell out how they plan to address the company's financial problems on Friday at its annual meeting in Clinton.
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