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AT&T tightens finances, outlines plans

AT&T's top executive, speaking at the annual shareowners meeting, lays out the embattled company's plan to ride out the downturn squeezing the telecommunications industry.

AT&T's top executive on Wednesday laid out the embattled company's strategy to ride out the persistent downturn squeezing the telecommunications industry.

Speaking at the company's 118th annual meeting of shareowners in Savannah, Ga., AT&T Chief Executive David Dorman also emphasized the company's improving finances. Dorman said that by the end of 2003, AT&T's net debt will be less than $10 billion compared with a net debt of $12 billion at the end of this year's first quarter.

Dorman said AT&T is parlaying its improving finances into a strategy that may allow it to pull away from its competitors.

For one, Dorman said, AT&T will invest $500 million in strengthening its business services, including the creation of a single global IP (Internet Protocol) network that has the potential for more efficient networking capabilities. Dorman disclosed the planned $500 million investment earlier this month.

The company also plans to expand the reach of its local consumer services, increasing bundled local and long-distance services. AT&T said current regulations will allow it to reach as many as 22 consumer local markets by year's end. The company now reaches 3 million customers in 11 markets, AT&T said.