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Bell Atlantic earnings on target

The regional telecommunications powerhouse says it remains on track to achieve its double-digit earnings-growth objective for this year.

Regional telecommunications powerhouse Bell Atlantic said it remains on target to achieve its double-digit earnings-growth objective for this year.

The company's board of directors also declared a quarterly dividend of about 39 cents per outstanding share. The dividend, which is unchanged from the previous quarter, will be payable on November 2 to shareowners of record on October 9. The dividend reflects the 2-for-1 stock split of Bell Atlantic common shares that was effective on June 29, 1998.

"The board has decided to defer consideration of a dividend increase at this time, after having declared two increases in 1997," said senior executive vice president and CFO Frederic V. Salerno. "We remain on target to achieve our double-digit earnings-growth objective for this year, and we intend to continue to create shareowner value by achieving higher revenue growth and continuing synergies from the Bell Atlantic-Nynex merger."

In a separate action, the board authorized management to repurchase shares from time to time for various purposes, including for employee compensation plans. The board's action allows the repurchase of up to $1.4 billion of company shares for the two-year period beginning October 1 and permits the repurchase of up to approximately $200 million remaining under a previous $1 billion share repurchase authorization that took effect January 1, 1998. The amount and timing of share repurchases will depend on market conditions.

Bell Atlantic has approximately 1.1 million registered shareowners and approximately 1.55 billion shares of common stock outstanding.

Bell Atlantic was formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic and Nynex. The combined company has more than 41 million telephone access lines and more than 7 million wireless customers worldwide.

In July, Bell Atlantic and GTE announced that they had agreed to a merger that would create a company capable of providing a wide range of services, including long distance, local, and wireless services, as well as Internet access. The proposed merger is still pending regulatory approval.

The company's stock closed yesterday at 45.88 and has traded as high as 53 and as low as 37.38 during the past 52 weeks.