AT&T swings to 4th-quarter profit of $6.9 billion on higher revenue

AT&T posted stronger-than-expected earnings for the final quarter of 2013, helped by higher revenue from mobile and Internet service subscribers.

The telecommunications company said Tuesday that it earned $6.9 billion, or $1.31 a share, in the October-December period, compared with a loss of $3.8 billion, or 68 cents, a year earlier.


The latest quarter's results included a pension-related gain of $7.6 billion, tax expenses and other items. Excluding these items, adjusted earnings were 53 cents a share, beating analysts' expectations by 2 cents.

Revenue rose 2% to $33.2 billion. Analysts on average were expecting revenue of $33.1 billion, according to FactSet.

Wireless revenue, which includes equipment sales, grew 5% to $18.4 billion.

AT&T said it added 809,000 net wireless subscribers in the fourth quarter. It added 566,000 wireless devices to its contract-based plans, which are the most lucrative. Of these 299,000 were smartphones and the rest tablets, which carry lower monthly fees than phones.

Churn, or the turnover rate for contract-based subscribers, was 1.11% during the quarter, down from 1.19% a year earlier.

AT&T is benefiting from the growing popularity of smartphones and tablet computers, but the Dallas company is also facing competition from Verizon Wireless as well as smaller rivals such as T-Mobile and Sprint Corp.

AT&T shares fell 61 cents, or 1.8%, to $33.09 in after-hours trading following the release of the earnings report. The shares closed up 19 cents at $33.70.