Wireless results help lift AT&T's profit

/ Source: The Associated Press

AT&T Inc.’s third-quarter earnings rose 74 percent to $2.17 billion, above Wall Street estimates, boosted by last year’s acquisition of its former corporate parent as well as strong growth and profit margins at Cingular Wireless.

The company also provided the first subscriber numbers from its crucial foray into cable TV, saying it has signed up 3,000 of the 30,000 homes offered the service since the limited initial launch in San Antonio during June.

AT&T stood by its schedule for a full-scale launch of the technologically risky initiative by the end of this year, but scaled back the number of expected markets to 15, down from earlier estimate of 15 to 20 markets.

The quarterly profit reported Monday equaled 56 cents per share. In last year’s third quarter, before the acquisition of AT&T Corp., the company earned $1.25 billion, or 38 cents per share. The company, formerly known as SBC Communications, changed its name to AT&T Inc. late last year after the acquisition.

Third-quarter revenue totaled $15.64 billion, up from a pre-merger figure of $10.30 billion in the same period last year. Because AT&T shares management control of Cingular with BellSouth Corp., the cell phone operation’s revenues are not reflected in AT&T’s tally. AT&T’s proposed acquisition of BellSouth is awaiting a final vote from the Federal Communications Commission.

The San Antonio-based company’s third-quarter results included acquisition costs of $140 million, or 2 cents per share, for the purchase of the AT&T long-distance business in the fourth quarter of 2005, as well $453 million, or 5 cents per share, for merger integration costs at Cingular.

Earnings before acquisition-related costs were 63 cents per share, above the 58 cents per share that analysts polled by Thomson Financial were expecting.