BellSouth Rings Up Bigger Profits

Fourth-quarter net income rose 37% to $787 million thanks to gains in Latin America, new Internet customers, and a successful multiservice package.

ATLANTA (AP) -- BellSouth Corp. cited growth in its Latin America division, new Internet customers, and the success of a multiservice package as it posted a 37 percent jump in fourth-quarter profit on higher revenues.

The Atlanta-based telecommunications company said Thursday it earned $787 million, or 43 cents a share, for the three months ending Dec. 31, compared to $574 million, or 31 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items--including foreign currency transaction gains, charges from a pension settlement and the sale at a loss of holdings in Brazil--BellSouth said it earned $949 million, or 51 cents a share. That met earnings expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Revenue for the October-December quarter rose to $5.74 billion, from $5.69 billion in the year-ago period.

BellSouth, one of the regional phone companies that emerged from the Bell System breakup, is the dominant local service provider in nine Southeastern states.

BellSouth serves 44 million customers in Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana and 14 countries.

For the entire year, BellSouth said it earned $3.9 billion, or $2.11 a share, compared to a profit of $1.32 million, or 71 cents a share in the previous year. Twelve-month revenue edged up to $22.63 billion from $22.44 billion in 2002.

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