turned in a solid third quarter with pumped up margins and strong subscriber growth.
The wireless joint venture of
says it added 1.4 million net new users and trimmed its monthly customer defection rate to 1.5%.
For the quarter ended last month, Cingular posted a profit of $847 million, which is up dramatically over the $222 million in earnings last year. Sales grew to $9.5 billion from $8.7 billion in the year-ago quarter.
Gross margin was 61% in the quarter compared with 58% in the third quarter of 2005.
The average revenue per user, or ARPU, increased slightly to $49.76 from $49.65 last year and was well above the $48.84 level in the second quarter.
Some investors said they were encouraged by the solid jump in Cingular's data ARPU, which reached $6.32, nearly a 50% improvement from the same quarter last year.
The gain is seen as evidence that Cingular is selling more Internet- and messaging-related services, a bit of a payback on the company's big network upgrade investment.
Cingular's subscriber growth strength and higher profits raises expectations for Verizon Wireless, co-owned by
Verizon Wireless is expected to report earnings later this month.
AT&T shares rose 35 cents to $33.29, nearing another 52-week high; BellSouth shares rose 43 cents to $43.78 in early trading Thursday.