MCI

swung to a steep loss in February after an accounting change, but eked out a profit last month as revenue ticked up.

The big phone company posted a February loss of $332 million on revenue of $2.03 billion and a March profit of $43 million on revenue of $2.1 billion. Investors are keeping a close eye on MCI's results because the company, formerly known as WorldCom, is preparing to emerge this fall from the nation's largest-ever bankruptcy case free of the massive debt burden that has staggered so many of its rivals. The company

returned to profitability for the first time in January.

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MCI made the numbers available as part of its monthly filings of operating results with the bankruptcy court overseeing its Chapter 11 case. The company, which recently moved to Ashburn, Va., from Jackson, Miss., to escape the taint of the $11 billion accounting scandal that brought down WorldCom, said Monday evening that operating income was $44 million in February and $84 million in March.

"We are continuing to make steady and measured progress against our business plan," CEO Michael Capellas said. "While we are on a fast track to emerge from Chapter 11 later this fall, we know there is still much more work to do and there will be ups and downs along the way."

MCI says it had $3.3 billion in cash on hand at the end of last month, a $500 million improvement on its January-end bank balance.

The company's steady progress on the restructuring front has piqued the interest of some holders of existing WorldCom and MCI common stock. But there seems to be little prospect that the shares, which now trade for pennies on the pink sheets, will retain any value. Indeed, MCI noted in Monday's press release: "MCI believes that when it emerges from bankruptcy proceedings, its existing WorldCom and Intermedia preferred stock and WorldCom group and MCI group tracking stock issues will have no value."