Alltel Posts Profit Gain

Alltel (AT) shares rose Friday after a solid fourth-quarter earnings report.

For the quarter ended last month, Alltel posted a net income of $207 million, or 89 cents a share, on $2.1 billion in revenue. That is roughly flat with the prior quarter and a slight improvement over the year-ago profit of $259 million, or 77 cents a share, on sales of $2 billion.

Analysts had been looking for a profit of 84 cents a share on $2 billion in revenue.

The Little Rock, Ark., phone shop benefited from a strong performance from its wireless unit.

Wireless sales grew to $1.3 billion, an 11% increase over the year-ago period. The company signed on 139,000 new cell-phone subscribers and managed to increase the average revenue per user to $49.24, a 4% gain over last year. Meanwhile, customer loyalty was strong, with monthly churn rates dropping to 1.7%, the lowest defection rate in six years, Alltel says.

Last week, Alltel announced a $6 billion deal to acquire Western Wireless ( WWCA), which will give the company an additional 1.4 million cell-phone customers.

Alltel shares were up 92 cents, or 2%, to $55.94 in early trading Friday.

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