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said earnings for 2001 would be in the range of Wall Street's estimates -- leaving open the possibility of a shortfall -- but set plans to eliminate 1,000 positions in the communications division through attrition, early retirement and layoffs.

The telecom company said it expects to earn $2.85 to $3 a share in 2001. The consensus estimate from 19 analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

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is $2.98 a share.

About 400 employees have been offered the early retirement package, but don't have to agree to the deal until Feb. 28. The remaining 600 positions haven't yet been broken down between attrition and layoffs, said George Smith, a company spokesman. Alltel has 27,000 employees, with 19,000 in the communications division.

Alltel, which is based in Little Rock, Ark., also plans to reduce its number of operating regions to three from five. Regional headquarters will remain in Cleveland, Charlotte, N.C., and Little Rock.

In recent

New York Stock Exchange

activity, Alltel gained 43 cents, or 0.8%, to $53.54.