Verizon met or exceeded 2000 targets

By Reuters, InfoWorld |  Business

(REUTERS) -- Verizon Communications, the No. 1 U.S. local telephone company, said on Monday it met or exceeded its operating targets for the fourth quarter and the full-year 2000 and expressed confidence it would accelerate its growth in 2001.

New York-based Verizon said it ended 2000 with about 540,000 DSL (digital subscriber line) high-speed Internet subscribers, exceeding its year-end target of 500,000. Its total data revenues for 2000 were about $6.2 billion.

By year-end it had about 1.4 million long-distance customers in New York and 5 million long-distance customers nationwide. Verizon will announce its fourth-quarter and full- year financial results for 2000 on Feb. 1.

Verizon expects to file for approval to offer long-distance in all of the former Bell Atlantic states by mid-2002. It will resubmit its application to enter the Massachusetts market shortly, and will file its application today with Pennsylvania regulators.

Shares of Verizon were trading at $54, down 1/8, on the New York Stock Exchange, by late afternoon.

Verizon reiterated that Verizon Wireless, its joint venture with Britain's Vodafone Group Plc , had a net gain of about 1.2 million new customers in the fourth quarter and ended the year with about 27.5 million customers.

It said the impact on earnings of the current wireless auctions had been factored into Verizon's previous earnings guidance. Verizon Wireless is the top bidder in the ongoing Federal Communications Commission sale of wireless licenses, with bids of about $4.2 billion in markets such New York and Los Angeles.

Verizon expressed confidence in its earnings targets and said it was using conservative assumptions about the 2001 economy in its financial planning.

"Our growth engines -- data, DSL, long distance, wireless -- are strong enough to accelerate our overall growth rate, even in the face of an economic downturn," said Verizon co-chief executive Ivan Seidenberg said.

In December, Verizon said it expected its fourth-quarter earnings to be in the range of 76 to 78 cents a share, and its 2001 earnings to be in the range of $3.13 to $3.17 a share.

Wall Street analysts on average expect the company to earn 78 cents a share for the fourth quarter, and $2.91 a share for the full year 2000, according to research firm First Call/Thomson Financial. For 2001, analysts expect the company to earn $3.14 a share.

Verizon said it achieved an estimated $535 million in annualized merger-related savings in 2000 following the Bell Atlantic-GTE merger, which created Verizon. The company said one of its top priorities for 2001 is to continue its goal of $2 billion in annual expense savings by 2003.

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