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MCI WorldCom beats Street by a penny

The telecommunications giant announces better-than-expected results, spurred by growth in demand for data and Internet services.

Telecommunications giant MCI WorldCom today announced better-than-expected fourth-quarter results, spurred by growth in demand for data and Internet services.

MCI WorldCom said that excluding investments in Brazilian company Embratel, it earned $428 million or 23 cents per share for the quarter. The results allowed the United States' second-largest long distance carrier to beat Wall Street expectations by a penny, according to a consensus of analysts polled by First Call.

"We have intensified our focus on what we do best--provide core communications services," said MCI WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers.

Earlier today, the company announced that it has agreed to sell MCI Systemhouse to Electronic Data Systems for $1.65 billion, as the telecommunications company continues to shed "virtually all of [its] noncommunications services businesses," Ebbers said.

On a pro forma and comparative basis, communications services revenue, which include voice, data, international, and Internet, increased 17 percent to $7.6 billion from $6.5 billion a year ago. Traffic, on a pro forma basis, increased 13 percent year-over-year.

"We accelerated our capital spending in the fourth quarter particularly in international and next generation network deployment, which should not only sustain future revenue growth, but also drive significant cost reductions across all communications services," Ebbers said.

Shares of MCI WorldCom rose 4.1875 to close at 80.4375. The stock has traded as high as 81.25 and as low as 36.13 in the past 52 weeks.

Voice revenue, representing 62 percent of total revenue, grew 8 percent to $5 billion for the fourth quarter, the company said. It added that growth in voice traffic is particularly evident in its business markets.

Data revenue increased 29 percent to $1.6 billion for the quarter. Virtual data services, including frame relay and ATM services, combined with continued strength in private line sales, are driving overall revenue growth.

Internet revenue increased 61 percent to $658 million. Revenue from MCI's former Internet business has been excluded in all periods because of the unit's sale.

International revenue rose 55 percent to $328 million for the fourth quarter.