updated 2/22/2006 9:11:41 AM ET 2006-02-22T14:11:41

Sprint Nextel Corp. reported Wednesday a 55 percent drop in fourth-quarter net income in its first full quarterly report as a combined company, dragged down by rising expenses at the telecommunications service provider.

The company also forecast that its 2006 revenue will total $41 billion or more, far below the $46.8 billion analysts were estimating.

The telecommunications service provider posted a quarterly profit of $197 million, or 7 cents per share, versus $437 million, or 29 cents per share, a year ago. Adjusted earnings, after removing the effects of amortization and special items, were 33 cents per share.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial were expecting earnings per share of 34 cents. Fourth-quarter revenue of $11.3 billion slightly topped analysts’ expectations of $11.28 billion.

For the year, the company reversed a 2004 loss of $1.01 billion, or 71 cents per share, to post a 2005 profit of $1.79 billion, or 87 cents per share. Adjusting earnings were $1.41 per share.

Revenue rose 26 percent to $34.68 billion from the previous year.

The company forecast high single-digit to low double-digit growth in its wireless business, and a mid-to-high single-digit revenue decline for long distance in 2006.

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