Alltel Profit Beats Expectations

Alltel Corp. (AT), which recently agreed to expand its wireless business with a $4.4 billion acquisition, said Friday its profit for the fourth quarter rose 5 percent, beating Wall Street estimates.

The telecommunications company earned $270.6 million, or 89 cents a share, for the three months ended Dec. 31, up from $259 million, or 83 cents a share, a year ago.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had predicted Alltel would earn 83 cents per share for this year's fourth quarter.

Revenue rose to $2.14 billion from $2.01 billion a year ago.

Its shares rose 47 cents to close at $55.39 in Friday trading on the New York Stock Exchange (search).

On Jan. 10, Alltel announced a deal to buy Western Wireless Corp. (WWCA) for $4.4 billion in cash and stock. The deal, if approved by regulators and Western Wireless shareholders, would give Alltel the Cellular One (search) brand and make Alltel the No. 5 U.S. wireless carrier.

Alltel said Friday it projects earnings per share for 2005 to be between $3.30 and $3.50; effects from the Western Wireless acquisition would be factored after that deal closes.

The company said wireless revenues were up 11 percent for the quarter at $1.3 billion, and that it added 139,000 wireless customers and 26,000 broadband customers.

For the year, the Little Rock-based company earned $1.05 billion, or $3.39 a share, down from $1.33 billion, or $4.25 a share a year ago. Annual revenue rose to $8.25 billion from $7.98 billion in 2003.

Alltel president and chief executive Scott Ford said the company is continuing to improve revenue and expand its customer base.

"This was an outstanding year for our company. Alltel is growing the business, delivering value for our shareholders and improving service for our customers," ford said.

In addition to the Western Wireless purchase, the company bought wireless assets of MobileTel in Louisiana and made purchases from U.S. Cellular and TDS Telecom in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. Also in 2004, Alltel announced the purchase of Cingular assets in Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.

Alltel has more than 13 million customers among 26 states. With its Western Wireless purchase, Alltel will gain 1.4 million domestic customers and 1.6 million international customers.