Qwest (Q) shares rose Wednesday as the Rocky Mountain phone giant swung to a first-quarter profit.

The Denver telco made $88 million, or 5 cents a share, on sales of $3.48 billion in the quarter ended March 31. Those numbers compare with break-even results on $3.5 billion in revenue in the prior quarter, and an 11-cent adjusted loss on sales of $3.45 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Analysts were looking for a penny profit on $3.49 billion in revenue, according to Reuters Research.

"Qwest has started the year with strong momentum, posting both solid operating and financial performance for the first quarter and achieving important operating milestones resulting in positive earnings per share," CEO Dick Notebaert said in a press release Wednesday.

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Qwest shares rose 16 cents to $7.15 in premarket trading.