Verizon (VZ) posted a solid fourth quarter as its wireless arm continued to add customers at a breakneck clip.

The New York telco made $1.39 billion, or 48 cents a share, before the effect of an accounting change in the quarter ended Dec. 31, up from the year-ago $1.31 billion, or 47 cents a share. Revenue rose 26% from a year ago to $22.6 billion. Before unusual items, earnings were 62 cents a share in the latest quarter, down from 64 cents a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for a 61-cent profit on sales of $22.99 billion.

"We had a strong 2006 both operationally and financially," said CEO Ivan Seidenberg. "We have become a leaner, more competitive and global company, with a greater percentage of our revenues from broadband and other growth initiatives."

On a pro forma basis, combining the results of Verizon and its recent MCI acquisition for both periods, adjusted operating revenue rose 3.9% in the latest quarter and adjusted cash expenses increased 5.4%.

Verizon Wireless added 2.3 million net customers in the fourth quarter 2006 for a total of 59.1 million customers nationwide, a 15% increase in total customers from the end of the fourth quarter 2005. This was the second time in the company's history that quarterly net customer additions exceeded the 2 million mark.

Of the company's net customer additions in the fourth quarter, a record 2.2 million were retail, a 23.6% increase over the fourth quarter 2005 and almost all post-paid customers.

The company continued to set industry records for low churn. Total churn was 1.14% for the quarter and 1.17% for the year. Churn among the company's retail post-paid customers -- almost 93% of total customers -- was even lower, at 0.89% for the fourth quarter and 0.91% for the year.

Verizon Wireless quarterly revenues topped $10 billion for the first time. Total revenues were $10.1 billion in the fourth quarter 2006, a 16.3% increase, driven by strong customer growth and demand for data services.

Wireless operating income margins were 25.0% for the fourth quarter and 25.2% for the year, the result of the company's continued focus on efficiencies, even as it added record net retail customers.

Verizon's broadband fiber-to-the-premises network passed a total of more than 6 million premises by the end of 2006. Verizon's fiber optic TV service, FiOS TV, was available for sale to 2.4 million premises as of year-end -- nearly double the number of premises as at the end of the third quarter 2006. Verizon Telecom, which serves wireline residential and small- business customers, had 207,000 FiOS TV customers at the end of its first full year of offering the service, adding 89,000 in the fourth quarter.

As of year-end 2006, Verizon Telecom provided 7.0 million total broadband connections -- which include customers of both DSL and FiOS Internet services -- an increase of 35.7% compared with year-end 2005. In 2006, Verizon Telecom added more than 1.8 million net new broadband connections, 517,000 of which serve FiOS Internet customers. In the fourth quarter 2006, Verizon Telecom added 409,000 net broadband connections. FiOS Internet customers accounted for 165,000 of the net broadband connection additions in the fourth quarter and totaled 687,000 at year-end.

Verizon Telecom primary residential access lines decreased by 366,000 in the fourth quarter compared with the third quarter, while Verizon added 508,000 residential broadband and video customers over the same period.

At year-end 2006, Verizon served 45.1 million total domestic wireline access lines -- which also include secondary residential lines, public telephones, business lines and wholesale voice connections. This is a 7.6% decrease compared with year-end 2005.

Verizon is targeting capital expenditures of from $17.5 billion to $17.9 billion in 2007. As part of that total, Wireline capital expenditures are expected in the range of $10.7 billion to $10.9 billion, and Wireless capital expenditures are expected in the range of $6.6 billion to $6.8 billion. Verizon is also targeting the same level of share repurchases in 2007 as the $1.7 billion repurchased in 2006.

Earnings dilution from FiOS deployment -- which, as previously announced, will be at its peak through the first quarter 2007 -- is expected to be about 11 cents per share in the first quarter and then decline in each successive quarter in 2007.

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