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Nextel trims losses in first quarter

Nextel Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NXTL) beat the Street Wednesday with a loss of 83 cents a share for the first quarter, citing strong subscriber growth and high average revenue per customer.

Shares in the wireless telephone company closed at 111 9/16 Tuesday. The stock has stumbled from its 52-week high of 165 7/8, though the company's spin-off, Nextel Partners (Nasdaq: NXTP), enjoyed a strong debut in its February IPO.

Competition for Nextel is beefing up, as AT&T (NYSE: T) launches an IPO for its wireless subsidiary, AT&T Wireless (Proposed ticker: AWE). Other rivals are also pooling their power; GTE (NYSE: GTE) is being acquired by Bell Atlantic (NYSE: BEL) , and Vodafone Airtouch (NYSE: VOD) has a joint venture with Bell Atlantic, Verizon Wireless. MCI WorldCom (Nasdaq: WCOM) is buying Sprint and its PCS wireless unit (NYSE: FON, PCS).

Nextel reported a loss, excluding one-time charges, of $279 million or 83 cents a share, 50 percent narrower than the loss of $439 million or $1.66 a share a year ago. First Call was expecting a loss of 95 cents a share.

First-quarter revenue was $1.08 billion, up 63 percent over the $664 million a year ago. Average monthly revenue per subscriber was $72, compared with $73 in the fourth quarter.

Domestic revenue was $1.03 billion for the quarter, while international revenue was $47 million.

The company, which serves mostly business customers rather than individual consumers, added 634,000 new subscribers in the first quarter, bringing its total subscriber base to 5.6 million customers.

Nextel reported continued improvement in operating cash flow, or EBITA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization); EBITA was $228 million, compared to 1999's $35 million.

Reuters contributed to this report.