Earnings: Verizon; Clear Channel; Sysco

Earnings: Verizon | Clear Channel | Sysco

Verizon 3Q Profit Edges Up on Wireless

NEW YORK - Verizon Communications Inc.'s (VZ) profit edged up in the third quarter, beating Wall Street forecasts as a powerful showing by Verizon Wireless and the addition of the MCI long-distance business helped boost the phone company's revenues nearly 26 percent.

But a disappointing performance in the traditional phone and broadband Internet businesses, as well as higher-than-expected costs in Verizon's risky fiber-optic network upgrade, hurt the company's stock which fell 3 percent.

The company said Monday it earned $1.92 billion, or 66 cents per share, in the July-September quarter, up from $1.87 billion, or 68 cents per share in the same period last year. Per-share results fell because Verizon has more shares outstanding than a year ago.

The latest results include expenses for special items including pension settlement charges, headquarters relocation expenses and merger integration costs. Excluding those factors, Verizon's per-share profit came to 68 cents, exceeding the average forecast of 66 cents among analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Third-quarter revenue totaled $23.25 billion, up from $18.49 billion a year earlier.

Verizon Wireless accounted for $9.87 billion in revenue, an increase of 18.2 percent from the third quarter of 2005, as its customer base swelled by 1.9 million subscribers to 56.7 million. The operating profit margin for the cellular business was 26.2 percent in the quarter, the highest ever for Verizon Wireless, which is owned in partnership with Vodafone Group PLC.

The customer growth, well in excess of what many industry analysts were expecting, further narrowed the lead held by market leader Cingular Wireless, which finished September with 58.7 million customers.

Though it still trails by 2 million subscribers, Verizon made of point in Monday's report of declaring victory on the revenue front as its quarterly sales edged Cingular's for the first time. Cingular's third-quarter revenue totaled $9.55 billion.

Verizon Wireless also improved on its industry-leading customer retention rates. The business reduced its "churn" rate to 1.24 percent of its customer base per month. Cingular, by contrast, was losing 1.8 percent of its subscribers per month in the quarter.

Beyond cellular, Verizon's results were less stellar.

Total revenue from its traditional wireline phone and data network totaled $12.8 billion in the third quarter, an increase of 35.5 percent from a year ago. But that was assisted by the takeover of MCI, which came in early 2006. If the year-ago comparison is adjusted to include MCI's results, revenue for the latest quarter fell 4.7 percent. Nonetheless, third-quarter revenue edged 0.1 percent higher from the second quarter, the second such improvement in a row.

Growth in broadband Internet customers came in below expectations, with Verizon adding 448,000 connections in the quarter. Some analysts had been forecasting closer to half a million in new broadband customers.

About two-thirds of the subscriber additions were for DSL lines. The company also signed up 147,000 new customers for broadband delivered via "FiOS," a fiber-optic network in which Verizon has decided to invest tens of billions of dollars to build.

Clear Channel 3Q Profit Falls

SAN ANTONIO - Clear Channel Communications Inc. (CCU), the largest operator of radio stations in the country, said Monday third-quarter earnings fell 11 percent on higher expenses and the sale of some operations that generated profit in the year-ago period.

The report comes as the media company which also sells advertising on billboards and bus stops is examining whether to sell all or parts of itself.

Clear Channel, which also operates a unit that sells advertising on billboards and bus stops, said net income fell to $185.9 million, or 38 cents per share, for the three months ended Sept. 30 from $205.5 million, or 38 cents per share, last year, which included profit of $33.6 million from discontinued operations.

Analysts were looking for earnings of 37 cents per share, according to Thomson Financial.

Revenue gained 7 percent to $1.79 billion from $1.68 billion last year, exceeding the Wall Street average estimate of $1.78 billion. Radio revenue rose 5 percent on higher selling prices for national advertising. Outdoor rose 8 percent

Operating expenses rose at each of the company's divisions, with the total increasing 5 percent to $1.16 billion.

Last week the company's board said it hired Goldman Sachs to review "strategic alternatives," which analysts said could include a sale of the company to a private equity firm or the founding Mays family.

Sysco Profit Falls After Accounting Change

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Food distributor Sysco Corp. (SYY) said on Monday that quarterly earnings fell 9 percent, in part due to accounting changes, while sales rose.

Net earnings fell to $189 million, or 30 cents per share, in the fiscal first quarter that ended on September 30, from $208.5 million, or 33 cents per share a year earlier after accounting changes.

Sysco said the accounting change, which led to a loss of $39.7 million, was related to corporate-owned life insurance policies that it took out on "key individuals" to fund obligations under non-qualified executive retirement plans.

Stripping out that one-time loss, earnings were 37 cents per share in the latest period. Analysts, on average, expected 36 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Sales rose to $8.67 billion from $8.01 billion a year earlier. The company said it gained market share by growing sales at a faster pace than the industry.