AT&T Profit Rises on Strong Wireless Sales


AT&T Thursday posted a higher quarterly profit after better-than-expected wireless growth, sending its shares up almost 3 percent in pre-market trading.

The company also affirmed its outlook for 2008.

The biggest U.S. telephone company said its fourth-quarter profit was $3.1 billion, or 51 cents per share, compared with $1.9 billion, or 50 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.

Most of the year-ago quarter excludes earnings from BellSouth, which AT&T bought at the end of 2006.

Before merger-related costs and other special items AT&T's profit rose to 71 cents a share from 61 cents in the year-ago quarter.

Revenue rose to $30.3 billion from $15.9 billion.

The results were in line with the average analyst forecast of earnings per share of 71 cents before items, on revenue of $30.5 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.

"We had an excellent fourth quarter, which affirms our outlook for 2008," AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson said in a statement.

The company also approved a buyback of 400 million shares, or 6.6 percent of its shares outstanding, and expects to complete the transactions by the end of 2009.

AT&T, the exclusive U.S. carrier for Apple's iPhone, said it added 2.7 million net wireless subscribers in the quarter compared with average estimates of 1.9 million from four analysts contacted by Reuters. Estimates ranged from 1.35 million to 2.36 million.

The company said it maintained double-digit growth in revenue and subscribers for its broadband business and saw subscribers to its U-verse video service rise to 231,000 by the end of the quarter from 126,000 the previous quarter.

Stephenson said the company was on track to reach more than 1 million U-verse subscribers by the end of 2008.

AT&T earlier this month said it was seeing some softness in its consumer business, which represents about 20 percent of the company's revenue, but said this had less of an impact in wireless than in wireline services.