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October 22, 2003 Wednesday; 9:54 AM
Washington — BellSouth posted higher profit in the third quarter, as the company reduced expenses and saw a small gain in revenue, the company said Wednesday. Stronger sales of high-speed Internet and long-distance service also helped.
In the latest quarter, BellSouth said it earned $936 million, or 51 cents a share, up from $640 million, or 34 cents, a year ago.
Adjusted for one-time items, the local phone giant recorded income of $980 million, or 53 cents a share, compared with year-ago profit of $958 million, or 51 cents. That beat the 50-cent consensus of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.
Revenue rose 5.4 percent to $5.7 billion from a year ago, excluding the carrier's 40 percent stake in Cingular, a wireless venture with SBC Communications (SBC).
With wireless sales factored in, the company posted sales of $7.3 billion, up 2 percent from a year earlier.
In early Wednesday action, shares of BellSouth (BLS) added 89 cents to $24.67, a 3.8 percent advance.
The company's mainstay wireline business, meanwhile, increased revenue by 1.1 percent to $4.7 billion and its profit margin rose to 26.6 percent from 25.3 percent. BellSouth cited improved success in retaining or winning back customers, along with strong sales of DSL and long distance.
BellSouth added 654,000 long-distance customers for a total of 3.4 million. DSL customers rose 111,000 to 1.3 million, with sales from data and high-speed users climbing 5.5 percent to $1.1 billion.
The company continued to lose local phone lines, however. It ended the quarter with 23.9 million lines in service, a decline of 4 percent from the year-ago quarter. Yet BellSouth said it lost the fewest number of lines to rivals since the fourth quarter of 2001.