Verizon reports higher Q4 earnings, lower revenue

Top U.S. carrier adds 872,000 subscribers in fourth quarter, awaits iPhone

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Call it Verizon's Communication's (NYSE: VZ) last quarter Bi (before iPhone).

The No. 1 wireless carrier in the U.S. on Tuesday announced net income of $2.64 billion, or 93 cents a share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, more than four times its Q4 2009 net income of $617 million, or 22 cents a share.

However, as MarketWatch points out, much of Verizon's stated net income excludes profits it must pay Vadafone Group plc, the U.K.-based telco that owns 45 percent of Verizon.

Verizon's net income excluding one-time items was 54 cents a share, just short of consensus estimates of 55 cents a share.

For fiscal 2010, Verizon's earnings per share was 90 cents, down from $1.72 per share in 2009.

Despite solid growth in its wireless business -- Q4 sales were $16.15 billion, up 5.7 percent from the year-ago quarter -- overall revenue dropped 2.6 percent to $26.39 billion as the company's traditional phone business continued to see sales decline. Analysts had expected overall revenue of $26.46.

(Also see: Is the Verizon iPhone deal a disaster for AT&T?)

While Verizon's 872,000 wireless contract customers added in Q4 was down from the 1.1 million added in the fourth quarter of 2009, any disappointment should be short-term because the company is expected to enjoy a windfall this quarter when it begins selling Apple's iPhone starting on Feb. 10. Until now AT&T has had exclusive rights to sell the popular smartphone.

Currently Verizon reports having 94.1 million wireless customers.

“Verizon ended 2010 with strong results, driven by solid execution across all our businesses,” Verizon Chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg said in a statement accompanying the release. “The fourth quarter capped a strong second half of the year, resulting in improved earnings, solid momentum and an even stronger balance sheet. Verizon Wireless produced another quarter of impressive growth, with record-high profitability, as we continue to drive higher smartphone adoption and data use. Following another solid quarter in our wireline businesses, we are optimistic about opportunities to continue to expand wireline margins.”

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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