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BellSouth Misses Targets

The company's profit is hit by hurricanes and access-line losses.
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fourth-quarter profit dropped, missing Wall Street estimates.

For its fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, the Atlanta-based telco posted a continuing operations profit of $496 million, or 27 cents a share. That's down from the year-ago $836 million, or 45 cents a share.

On a so-called normalized basis, excluding hurricane-related, wireless merger integration and severance costs, latest-quarter earnings were 35 cents a share, down from 46 cents a year ago and 6 cents shy of the Thomson First Call analyst estimate. Revenue rose to $7.92 billion from $6.63 billion a year earlier, matching the Wall Street consensus.

The company, which like its Baby Bell peers has been losing its bread-and-butter local access-line business at a rapid rate, said latest-quarter strength came from nontraditional businesses like wireless, where BellSouth has a 40% stake in leading cell-phone service Cingular, and in fast Internet access. The company said it added 224,000 net digital subscriber line, or DSL, customers in the latest period and ended the year at 2.1 million customers.

BellSouth said access lines dropped 4.1% from a year ago to 21.4 million. The company added 467,000 mass-market long-distance customers, bringing its year-end count to 6.1 million.

On Monday, BellSouth dropped 9 cents to $26.56.