Earnings Reports for Jan. 24

The company plans to add about 1,700 restaurants in 2001, he said. The company said that 2001 per share earnings were expected to grow between 10 percent to 13 percent, excluding the impact of foreign currency translation.

In the year, it plans to buy back about $1.2 billion in stock, the remainder of a three-year $4.5 billion plan. In 2000, it purchased $2.0 billion worth. BACK TO TOP

Qwest Tops Wall Street

Telephone and data services provider Qwest Communications today posted a better-than-expected 44 percent jump in fourth-quarter profits, propelled by robust growth in Internet, data and wireless telephone revenues.

Qwest, which acquired regional phone company U S West Inc. last year in a $36 billion deal, said in a statement it was on track to meet its targets for 2001 revenues and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, a key measure of a company's performance.

Andrew Hamerling, an analyst with Banc of America, called the results "terrific."

"Everything is as expected," he said. "Overall I'd say it's a great quarter."

The Denver-based company said pro forma profits excluding one-time items rose to $270 million, or 16 cents a diluted share, compared with $188 million, or 11 cents a share, a year ago.

The results beat Wall Street expectations of 14 cents a share, according to research firm First Call/Thomson Financial.

"With the initial integration of the [U S West] merger successfully completed, we are on track to meet our expected growth rates," Chairman and Chief Executive Joseph Nacchio said in a statement.

Qwest said revenues rose 9.9 percent to $5.02 billion. The increase was driven by growth of almost 40 percent in Internet and data services.

Wireless revenues rose 90 percent to almost $150 million. The number of wireless customers increased to more than 805,000, above the company's target of 800,000 for the end of 2000.

Fourth-quarter EBITDA was up 19.7 percent, to $1.99 billion.

Shares of Qwest have fallen about 10 percent amid sharp declines throughout the telecom sector over the past year. Its stock has underperformed the Standard & Poor's 500 index by about 4 percent.

The company also said it expected to double the number of customers for its digital subscriber line (DSL) service, which provides high-speed Internet access over conventional phone lines, to 500,000 by the end of the year.

Qwest said it ended 2000 with more than 255,000 DSL customers, above its target of 250,000.

It also said it expected to file with the Federal Communications Commission to enter long-distance service in several states by the end of 2001.

It expects to apply to reenter long-distance business in one of the states in its local service area by the summer.

Tavis McCourt, an analyst with Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc. in Memphis, Tenn., said entry into long-distance markets was vital for Qwest's growth.

"Certainly they are going to be as aggressive as possible to make that a reality," he said.

Qwest reiterated that it expected 2001 revenues to be in the range of $21.3 billion to $21.7 billion and EBITDA to be $8.5 billion to $8.7 billion.

Hamerling, the Banc of America analyst, said the biggest challenge facing Qwest was to meet its target of 20 percent long-term EBITDA growth.

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