The hits keep on coming in the hard-charging U.S. cell-phone industry. On Tuesday, giant telco Verizon ( VZ) posted solid first-quarter numbers, as strength on the wireless side offset the ongoing erosion of the company's local phone business. For its first quarter ended March 31, Verizon posted a profit of $1.2 billion, or 43 cents a share. That's down from the year-ago $2.4 billion, or 88 cents a share. Earnings in the latest quarter were reduced by a charge related to employee buyouts, and those in the year-ago period were boosted by an accounting adjustment. On an apples-to-apples basis, earnings fell to 58 cents this quarter from 68 cents a year earlier. Revenue rose 4% from a year ago to $17.1 billion, boosted by 21% revenue growth at the company's 60%-owned Verizon Wireless unit. Wall Street analysts had expected the New York company to post a 57-cent profit on sales of $17.2 billion. Verizon said domestic telecom revenue fell 3.3% in the latest quarter to $9.6 billion, while long-distance revenue jumped 13.3% to $1 billion. The company added a million long-distance lines in the quarter and 345,000 digital subscriber lines for Internet access. Those adds brought Verizon's total to 17.6 million long-distance lines and 2.7 million DSL lines. Verizon Wireless added 1.4 million new users, and its so-called churn, or monthly customer defection rate, slipped to 1.6%. Average monthly service revenue per customer was $48, up 1.8%, and the operating income margin at the company rose to 19.5%. "In the first quarter, Verizon extended its leadership position by accelerating organic growth, while maintaining solid margins," said CEO Ivan Seidenberg. "While Domestic Telecom revenues were down, we recognize that this is part of the evolution of our business model, and we are on track with where we want to be. It's significant that new growth businesses, such as wireless, data, long-distance and broadband, now account for more than half of our revenues."
Even though AT&T tried a last-minute bribe of promising 5,000 new U.S. jobs to help gain support for the deal, the Justice Department filed a complaint to fight the combination of the nation's No. 2 and No. 4 wireless carriers.