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AT&T&#039s earnings in line with estimates

AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) reported first quarter operating earnings of $1.73 billion, or 53 cents a share, on sales of $15.8 billion. The earnings were down from a year ago, but in line with Wall Street estimates.

Earnings tracking firm First Call Corp. predicted a profit of 53 cents a share.

AT&T's operating earnings exclude gains, charges and other ownership interests. Including those items, AT&T reported net earnings of $1.74 billion, or 54 cents a share. The results were down from earnings of $1.72 billion, or 61 cents a share, a year ago. The company said the earnings were lower because of the acquisition of cable company TCI and a higher shares outstanding count.

Revenue for the quarter ending March 31 was up 5.8 percent to $15.8 billion, compared to $14.97 billion a year ago.

It was a standard quarter for AT&T -- good growth in business services, wireless and broadband was offset by fierce competition in the consumer long distance market.

"AT&T's growth businesses are delivering,'' said AT&T Chairman and CEO C. Michael Armstrong. "We'll continue to cut costs in our legacy businesses while ramping up our high-growth businesses.''

The company said wireless revenue, tracked by Ma Bell's AT&T Wireless (NYSE: AWE) stock, was up 40 percent. In AT&T's business services unit, high speed data and Internet protocol revenue grew at "a high-teen rate" and AT&T Solutions' sales jumped 25 percent. However, business services revenue was up 6 percent overall.

In broadband, AT&T said sales were $1.5 billion, up 7.9 percent from a year ago. It had 2 million digital cable subscribers. The broadband results include Excite@Home (Nasdaq: ATHM) results.

Consumer services, also known as long distance services, remained a drag, with sales of $5.1 billion, down 5.6 percent from a year ago. AT&T said price competition hurt sales, and that many customers are migrating to package deals.

Among other businesses, AT&T said WorldNet Services revenue increased 26.3 percent compared to a year ago. WorldNet has nearly 1.5 million residential subscribers, up 4.5 percent from a year ago.

AT&T has been busy expanding into new markets. The company recently boosted control over Excite@Home. AT&T's stake in Excite@Home, which recently missed estimates, puts it in competition with America Online (NYSE: AOL).

AT&T also boosted its Internet telephony profile by taking a big stake in Net2Phone (Nasdaq: NTOP).