MCI Communications Corp. apparently has made a lot of friends.
The company said yesterday that it would hire 100 people in its Hunt Valley customer sales and service office over the next six months, largely because of the success of the long-distance telephone company'sFriends & Family Program.
MCI, based in Washington, has signed up 10 million customers to the nearly 2-year-old program, which rewards 20 percent discounts to callers who recruit their friends and family to MCI, the nation's second-largest long distance carrier.
The Hunt Valley office currently employs 513 people, according to MCI, 140 of them hired in the past year alone.
Friends & Family "is one of the extraordinary marketing programs put together by any of the long-distance carriers," said Legg Mason Inc.analyst Michael Balhoff.
Despite ominous advertising counter-attacks from American Telephone & Telegraph Co. and Sprint Corp., "the program was very successful because people by and large were not offended by being contacted" by MCI marketing representatives, Mr. Balhoff explained.
The Hunt Valley office handles calls from residential and commercial MCI customers located in Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Washington and Canada.
In a separate announcement yesterday, MCI told analysts in Florida that it planned to increase its capital spending by 23 percent this year, to $1.6 billion, from $1.3 billion last year.
Much of the increase would go for a new fiber-optic communications network extending from Sacramento, Calif. to Omaha, Neb., and north to Chicago, the company told a Raymond James & Associates investment conference in St. Petersburg, Fla.
MCI's stock closed at $41.125 a share yesterday, up 87.5 cents in trading on the NASDAQ exchange.