Western Wireless


was plunging after posting a wider first-quarter loss and reporting a sequential decline in subscribers. The company was also downgraded by several brokerages Friday morning.

The Bellevue, Wash.-based wireless provider lost $96 million, or $1.22 a share, compared with a loss of $22.9 million, or 29 cents a share, a year ago. The loss included a noncash provision for income taxes of $78.9 million, or $1 a share due to an accounting change related to the way it records amortization for domestic licensing costs.

Total revenue rose to $290.7 million from $236.5 million a year ago. The company said it added 73,000 net new U.S. subscribers compared with a year ago in the quarter but said it ended the quarter with 1.16 million U.S. customers, 17,000 fewer subscribers from the fourth quarter.

Western Wireless said U.S. service revenue was $200.9 million, but average monthly subscriber revenue fell to $41.57 from $47.42. It cited a decrease in the number of subscribers who paid a surcharge for going over allotted minutes in their price plan.

The company's shares were down 35% at $3.70 in premarket Instinet trading.