AT&T narrows loss, bumps up revenue on smartphone sales

The company added 10.2 million smartphone customers during the fourth quarter

AT&T reported a slight increase in revenue and a smaller net loss for the fourth quarter, helped along largely by smartphone and broadband sales.

The telecom giant on Thursday reported US$32.6 billion in revenue for the three months ended Dec. 31, up 0.2 percent from the same quarter in 2011. AT&T's net loss for the quarter was $3.9 billion, a 42 percent improvement from the $6.7 billion net loss a year earlier.

Revenue would have been up 2.8 percent when excluding past revenue from the company's sold advertising unit.

Earlier this month, AT&T reported a record quarter for smartphone sales, with 10.2 million of the devices sold. Its previous record of 9.4 million came in the fourth quarter of 2011. AT&T set records for both iPhone and Android smartphone sales, the company said.

AT&T delivered "solid financial results" during the quarter and the full year, Randall Stephenson, AT&T's chairman and CEO, said in a conference call. During 2013, AT&T will aggressively roll out its Project VIP effort to improve its wired and wireless networks and retire old telephone infrastructure, he said.

AT&T reported the results during the same week that there were reports of outages in its U-verse broadband service.

Excluding one-time expenses amounting to $1.10 per share, AT&T reported earnings per share for the quarter of $0.44, missing analyst expectations of $0.46. One-time items, totalling $10 billion, included benefits and Sandy storm costs.

For the full year, AT&T reported $127.4 billion in revenue, up 0.6 percent from 2011. Net income for 2012 was $7.3 billion, up 84.2 percent from 2011.

AT&T's mobile revenue for the fourth quarter was $17.6 billion, up 5.7 percent from a year ago. The company added 1.1 million mobile customers during the quarter, giving it 107 million. Smartphones made up 89 percent of postpaid phone sales during the quarter, the company said.

The company sold 8.6 million iPhones during the quarter, with 16 percent of those customers new to AT&T.

AT&T's wireline revenue was $14.9 billion during the fourth quarter, down 0.5 percent from 2011. The company's U-verse television service added 192,000 subscribers, with TV customers now totalling 4.5 million. The company added 609,000 U-verse broadband customers, reaching 7.7 million, although total broadband subscriber growth, including DSL losses, was flat.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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