Sprint

announced plans to cut up to 1,100 employees from its business solutions unit and reiterated 2004 guidance that falls just below analysts' consensus forecast.

The Overland Park, Kan., phone company said the job reductions will include up to 850 workers in the business solutions unit and up to 250 in positions that support that group, including information technology. The actions are to "align company resources with customer segments and to maintain a cost structure that reflects highly competitive long-distance market conditions."

Though Sprint sells residential phone service, its core business market is small and medium-sized companies. This is an area that the regional Bells have been able to harvest effectively since gaining entry into the long distance market in the last two years.

The increase in competitive pressure from the Bells, along with

a brutal price war among the top two business communications providers --

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

and

MCI

(MCIA.PK)

-- have taken a toll on No. 3 player Sprint, say observers.

Sprint said it expects to earn 70 cents to 75 cents a share on an adjusted basis this year, and produce consolidated free cash flow of about $1.8 billion. The company said the reiteration reflects lower contributions from the global markets division, offset by stronger performance in the PCS wireless division and a "steady" performance in its local division.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were forecasting full-year earnings of 77 cents a share on sales of $27.03 billion.

Sprint closed Tuesday at $17.87.