Bolstered by strong third-quarter results, optimistic fourth-quarter guidance and their pending freedom from tracking-stock status,
shares climbed as high as $23.88 Wednesday, the highest level they've seen in five weeks.
The stock finished regular trading up 94 cents, or 4.3%, to $22.56 a share.
unit posted third-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $472 million, an 18% increase over the same quarter last year, and revenue of $2.79 billion, a 37% increase over the same quarter last year.
"You can't find fault with anything in the third-quarter," said
analyst Tom Lee. "The company had blow-away growth and better-than-expected EBITDA."
Chase H&Q rates AT&T Wireless a strong buy, with a 12-month stock price target of $38. It was an underwriter on the company's April IPO.
AT&T Wireless CEO John Zeglis told analysts on a conference call Wednesday that mobile phone subscriber growth would hit 40% for the full year, exceeding original estimates of 30% to 35%. Revenue growth is expected to come in on the high end of company estimates, hitting 35% in 2000, Zeglis added.
announced its intention Wednesday to offer $10 billion in AT&T Wireless tracking stock -- about 20% of the company -- in exchange for AT&T shares as part of a company-wide restructuring that will eventually unleash the wireless business altogether from the parent company.
AT&T will divide its business into four parts, with AT&T Wireless and its cable division,
, to be spun off into two independent, common stocks. AT&T's long-distance phone business,
, will be carved out into a tracking stock, while the remainder of AT&T -- its business division -- will become its principal unit. The restructuring is scheduled to be completed in 2002, although AT&T will issue the remaining shares in its wireless tracking stock by next summer.
"It's as if AT&T Wireless has just disassociated itself from a disease," said Patrick Comack, an analyst at
Guzman & Co.
. "Wireless is like the kid who wants to run away from home. It's the gem, the jewel ... and it'll finally trade on its own merit."
Guzman & Co. rates AT&T Wireless a buy, with a 12-month stock price target of $39. It hasn't performed underwriting for the company.