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Following on the heels of


(T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report

decision to split in to four units,



announced a plan Wednesday that would create two tracking stocks to reflect the performances of its Internet unit and its beleaguered consumer long-distance business.

In a separate announcement Wednesday, the Clinton, Miss.-based telecommunications giant lowered its earnings forecasts for the fourth quarter and 2001.

Both the restructuring and the earnings revision were expected, and anticipation of the announcement was

reported by the

New York Times


WorldCom said it expects fourth-quarter earnings of 34 cents to 37 cents a share, compared with a Wall Street consensus of 49 cents a share, according to

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First Call/Thomson Financial

. For 2001, the company said it would earn $1.55 to $1.65 a share, compared with the FirstCall consensus of $2.13 a share.

The company attributed the shortfall to pricing pressures and a strong dollar.

Shares in WorldCom plunged on the news and reached a new 52-week low, down lately $4.50, or 19%, to $19.19.

The restructuring plan, which has been approved by WorldCom's board, will create two new stocks: WorldCom, which will reflect the performance of the company's Internet and international businesses, and


, which will reflect the company's consumer, small business and wholesale long-distance voice and dial-up Internet access operations. Once the two are separate, MCI will have about $16 billion in annual revenues, while WorldCom will have close to $7 billion.

"Realigning WorldCom's structure in this way will enable the respective businesses to achieve greater management and resource focus to execute business strategies that work most effectively for each," Bernard Ebbers, WorldCom's president and chief executive, said in a statement. "At the same time, the new structure is designed to create greater shareholder value by providing shareholders with two distinct, clear and compelling investment opportunities, while ensuring a seamless transition for WorldCom customers and employees."

The company will distribute 100% of MCI shares to its stockholders. Shareholders of WorldCom -- the nation's second-largest long-distance company, which has grown through a series of mergers and acquisitions including its 1998 deal with MCI -- will get one share of MCI stock for every 25 shares of WorldCom. The MCI shares will trade under the ticker symbol MCIT.

The move comes amid growing fears of slowing telecommunications and technology spending.

Last week, WorldCom

announced a 26% increase in third-quarter profits, meeting Wall Street expectations, and said it would soon announce a plan to restructure the company.

Also last week, AT&T announced that it was

splitting into four separate publicly traded units.