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Bell Atlantic rises on earnings report

Shares of Bell Atlantic edge higher after the United States' largest regional Bell posted earnings that met Wall Street expectations.

Shares of Bell Atlantic edged higher this morning after the United States' largest regional Bell posted earnings that met Wall Street expectations, driven largely on strong demand for data and wireless services.

The company also cited growing demand for additional phone lines--a demand often linked to an increasing number of people installing dedicated lines to connect to the Internet.

Bell Atlantic posted fourth quarter adjusted earnings of 69 cents per share, an increase of 11.3 percent from 62 cents per share for the year-ago quarter. The figure matched the consensus of analysts polled by First Call. Adjusted net income rose to $1.1 billion, up 11.8 percent from $970.9 million a year ago.

"Our telecom group benefited from a full year of robust across-the-board demand for voice and data services and invested for growth, both through long distance entry and through new data facilities and services," the company's CEO Ivan Seidenberg said in a statement.

The company took a charge of 4 cents per share in the fourth quarter, related to transition costs for its merger with Nynex.

For the full year 1998, earnings rose 11 percent to $2.72 from $2.45 in 1997. Adjusted net income rose 11.6 percent to $4.3 billion.

Shares of Bell Atlantic edged up nearly 1 percent to 56.06 in late morning trading. The stock has traded as high as 61.19 and as low as 40.44 during the past 52 weeks.

Bell Atlantic said that more than two-thirds of telecom revenue growth for both the quarter and the year came from sales of data services. Revenue from data services, including packet-switched bandwidth and special access services as well as Bell Atlantic's network integration business, exceeded $2.3 billion for the year, 31 percent above 1997 levels.

The company added that the demand for digital connectivity and value-added features continued to grow in all markets.

"At the same time, we positioned ourselves to sustain this momentum and even accelerate it by preparing to enter the richest new markets in telecommunications," Seidenberg said.