How We Got Here: CenturyLink's Blockbuster Bid For Level 3 Has Enterprise, Cloud Focus

Billion-Dollar Buys

The $34 billion proposed acquisition of Level 3 Communications by CenturyLink will create the second largest carrier that serves global enterprise customers in the U.S, according to the companies. Level 3's North American data center network is used by more than 20 cloud providers and could be a way for partners to interconnect to more companies and deliver a wider variety of enterprise services.

But CenturyLink's ambitions have changed quite a bit over the past few years. CenturyLink, Monroe, La., went from being a sprawling traditional telecom company, focused on size and scale, to one that is more focused on the cloud and serving businesses. Though this slideshow only highlights its biggest buys, CenturyLink continues to acquire companies at a rapid rate. In March it acquired IT services security company netAura for an undisclosed price. In June CenturyLink acquired what it called "certain strategic assets" from software-defined networking company Active Broadband Networks. Financial terms of that deal were not disclosed.

Meanwhile, Broomfield, Colo.-based Level 3 has grown in size as well due to some major acquisitions.

What follows is a rundown of both companies' billion-dollar buys in just the past eight years.

October 2008: CenturyLink Reveals Plans To Acquire Embarq

CenturyLink made its move to buy Embarq in an $11.6 billion deal in October 2008 and completed the purchase in July 2009. Embarq was the local, mostly landline company that spun off from Sprint following Sprint's merger with Nextel in 2006. What seemed intriguing about CenturyLink and Embarq at time is that they were both located in parts of the country where they served large swaths of rural communities with traditional phone services. CenturyLink, back then, looked to be adding to capabilities it already had but expanding its territory and consumer base.

April 2010: CenturyLink Makes Play For Qwest Communications

Similarly, CenturyLink found another traditional telecom pairing just a couple of years after it absorbed Embarq. It agreed to acquire Qwest Communications, completing the deal in April 2011 for $12.2 billion.

April 2011: CenturyLink Unveils Plan To Acquire Savvis

After the Embarq acquisition, CenturyLink's M&A activity became more strategic. When CenturyLink said it would buy Savvis for about $2.5 billion in cash and stock in April 2011, the telecom giant suddenly became a player in cloud computing. CenturyLink completed the Savvis acquisition in July 2011.

More interestingly, this tipped the scales for CenturyLink. More than half of its revenue, when combined with Savvis, would now come from business customers. Managed hosting services were especially appealing to CenturyLink CEO Glen Post, according to published reports at the time.

April 2011: Level 3 Makes Bid For Global Crossing

Level 3 In April 2011 said it would acquire Global Crossing in a stock swap valued at $2 billion, closing the deal in October of the same year. Global Crossing was famous for building fiber routes in anticipation of increasing waves of internet traffic.

June 2014: Level 3 Reveals Plan To Acquire TW Telecom

Level 3 in June 2014 said it would buy facilities-based provider TW Telecom (formerly Time Warner Telecom) for $5.7 billion in a cash and stock transaction, completing the acquisition in October of the same year. Over its many iterations as a wholesale carrier and a business services provider, TW Telecom was perhaps best known for being an early advocate of metro Ethernet services, which provided cost-effective big bandwidth for enterprises that was easier to set up and manage than traditional T1 lines.

October 2016: CenturyLink Plans To Acquire Level 3

CenturyLink last month said it plans to to acquire Level 3 for $34 billion in stock and cash.

"Once the transaction is complete, our combined company will be able to provide even more opportunities to strengthen our relationships with industry-leading technology providers as the second largest domestic communications provider serving global enterprise customers," John Delozier, vice president of CenturyLink's Channel Alliance, told CRN earlier this week. The Level 3 acquisition is still pending approvals and the companies have said they expect the deal to close by the end of third-quarter 2017.