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Verizon Boosts 2011 Goals on iPhone

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Verizon (VZ - Get Report) raised growth targets for profits and sales driven largely by wireless and the Apple (AAPL - Get Report) iPhone.

Verizon says sales growth will more than double in 2011. Addressing analysts and investors at a special earnings presentation on Wall Street Tuesday, Verizon executives said revenue will grow in the range of 4% to 8% this year, driven by an estimated 11 million Apple iPhone sales.

The high cost of subsidizing the iPhone will cut into Verizon's profit, but the company says earnings will grow between 5% to 8% in 2011. And assuming the 11 million iPhone sales this year, Verizon says the profit growth rate could hit 10% to 16% next year.

The boost in guidance sent Verizon shares up 2% to $36.05

"We believe our brand and network will drive a lot of people," CEO Ivan Seidenberg told analysts, referring to the potential pull of customers to the Verizon iPhone .

Seidenberg, answering a question about his succession plan, said that COO Lowell McAdam "will be CEO by the end of the year."

The move makes the widely expected appointment of McAdam official. McAdam has been instrumental in making Verizon less rigid with partners and can be credited with bringing Google (GOOG) and Apple into the company's product plans.

The executives said they have trained 3,000 workers on iPhone sales and the company has dropped its policy of offering a new phone upgrade every two years for new subscribers. Verizon also reduced the return period for phones to 14 days from one month.

Verizon posted weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and sales earlier Tuesday.

The New York telco posted an adjusted profit of 54 cents a share, down from the 59 cents in the prior quarter and flat with year-ago levels. Analysts had expected a pro forma profit of 55 cents a share, according to Yahoo! Finance.

Sales for the fourth quarter were $26.4 billion, down from the $27.2 billion level in the third quarter and 2% below the $27.1 billion mark in the year-ago period. Analysts had expected revenue of $26.48 billion.

With so much attention focused on the upcoming CDMA iPhone, wireless growth was muted in the fourth quarter. Verizon added 872,000 new retail postpaid customers in the quarter, down from the 1 million new customers it added in the third quarter. Verizon says it now has 94.1 million wireless customers.

The Verizon iPhone sales launch is Feb. 10.

Even though there was a pre-iPhone drag on the wireless performance, Verizon managed to increase its average revenue per user, or ARPU to $53.50, a 2.5% bump up from the year-ago number. Data ARPU grew to $19.97 a month, a 19% increase fueled by higher smartphone sales.

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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