Citing strong growth in its data services and overseas businesses, Ameritech posted earnings of $684 million, or 61 cents per share, before one-time charges and gains. That matched Wall Street estimates, according to a consensus of financial analysts polled by First Call.
"Customer demand is robust across the board, and we're setting a fast pace in our industry's high-potential growth segments," said Ameritech CEO Richard Notebaert in a statement.
For the year as a whole, the company's earnings grew 11.4 percent to $2.61 billion, up from $2.35 billion in 1997. Last year was the sixth in a row the company posted double-digit earnings growth, executives said.
More than a quarter of the company's earning growth, however, came from its European investments. A full third of the earnings growth for the year came from data services, which brought in about $1.7 billion for the company. The character of this revenue growth does show how far the Baby Bell has stepped from its traditional, regionally-based local phone businesses.
Nevertheless, Ameritech has lagged behind some of its Baby Bell brethren in rolling out the most modern consumer-focused data strategies. While its ISDN and corporate data services are strong, it has yet to announce a plan for broad rollout of DSL, or digital subscriber line technology, in its area.
This is likely the last time that Ameritech will independently report a year's worth of earnings. The company's shareholders have already approved a merger with SBC, which would give the joint company close to a third of the nation's local phone customers.
State and federal regulators are still reviewing that deal, which has come under staunch criticism from consumer groups and rival telephone companies.