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Verizon meets estimates, comfortable with outlook

    Verizon (NYSE: VZ) met estimates for its fourth quarter Thursday and said it was comfortable current projections for fiscal 2001.

    Shares of the telecom company closed yesterday's session up $1.06 to $54.95. Verizon, the creation of last year's merger of Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp., also equaled analyst targets for its third quarter, back in October.

    For the quarter, the company reported adjusted earnings of $2.1 billion, or 77 cents a share, matching First Call's analysts' consensus estimate. Adjusted earnings rose compared to the 75 cents a share reported in the year ago quarter.

    Fourth-quarter adjusted consolidated revenues rose 6.7 percent to $16.9 billion, compared to $15.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 1999.

    Including charges, the company said its fourth-quarter reported earnings were 70 cents a share, per diluted share, on net income of $1.9 billion, up 11.1 percent from the from 63 cents, or $1.7 billion, seen in the year-ago quarter.

    As for its outlook, Verizon maintained its targets for fiscal 2001, projecting revenue growth of 8 to 10 percent and earnings per share in the $3.13 to $3.17 range. The Street consensus estimate for full year earnings is $3.14 a share.

    In a release, company officials said that nearly 40 percent of revenues for both the fourth quarter and the year were generated from high-growth data, wireless, long-distance, DSL (digital subscriber line) and international services.

    The company added 190,000 DSL lines in the fourth quarter, a 46 percent increase over the third quarter. Lines in service at the end of the year increased more than 500 percent year over year to 540,000. Verizon's dial-up Internet access subscriber base rose 21 percent year over year to 847,000.

    Full year data revenues grew 30 percent over 1999, with strong growth in data circuits and digital high capacity services.

    Verizon Wireless also performed well. Wireless revenues for the quarter grew to $4.1 billion, up 16.7 percent from a year ago, with average monthly service revenue per subscriber increasing 3 percent. For the year, revenues grew 19.3 percent to $14.2 billion.

    Verizon Wireless added 1.2 million net new customers during the fourth quarter, up 5.9 percent from a year ago. The total number of customers grew 15.6 percent to 27.5 million.

    Verizon's long-distance unit saw its customer base rise 44 percent over 1999, with 4.9 million customers nationwide. Wireless revenues for the quarter rose 16.7 percent over the year-ago period $4.1 billion. The division gained 1.2 million net new customers during the quarter, up 5.9 percent year-over year. The total number of customers rose 15.6 percent year-over-year to 27.5 million.

    For fiscal year 2000, Verizon reported adjusted earnings of $8.0 billion, or $2.91 a share, meeting First Call estimates for the period. The company saw earnings of $7.9 billion, $2.84 a share, in fiscal 1999.

    Including gains and charges, the company said its fiscal 2000 reported earnings per share were $4.31, or $11.8 billion, a 45.1 percent increase from $2.97, or $8.3 billion, in fiscal 1999.