Bell Atlantic Corp. closed the books on 1994 yesterday by posting solid but unspectacular quarterly results that met its financial goals but failed to impress Wall Street.
The Philadelphia-based telephone company reported fourth-quarter income of $314.9 million, or 72 cents a share, compared with a profit of $333.1 million, or 76 cents a share, in the previous year. But analysts said a more valid comparison, excluding extraordinary adjustments from both years, showed 76 cents in fourth-quarter 1994 earnings compared with 77 cents in 1993.
The fourth-quarter earnings fell short of analysts' consensus estimates of about 81 cents a share. Bell Atlantic's stock fell 12 1/2 cents, to $50.50, on a day when the other six regional Bell companies' shares showed gains.
Cynthia Ciangio, a spokeswoman for Bell Atlantic, focused on the positive aspects of the report, noting that the company showed nearly a 10 percent gain in operating income, from $607.2 million in 1993 to $667.3 million last year.
"Overall, we're extremely pleased with our performance," said Ms. Ciangio, noting that the company's adjusted earnings of $3.53 per share for the full year fell within its target range.
Bell Atlantic's net loss for the year came to $754.8 million, compared with earnings of $1.4 billion in 1993. The loss was the result of a $2.1 billion charge against earnings during the third quarter because of accounting changes and early repayment of debt. Without those charges, Bell Atlantic earned $1.4 billion, compared with $1.48 billion the previous year.
Tedd Alexander, a telecommunications analyst with Legg Mason in Baltimore, said the earnings decline reflected troubles in Bell Atlantic's six-state operating region, which includes Maryland. "Their region, from an economic standpoint, has not been very strong of late, particularly when you look at housing starts," he said.
Bell Atlantic said it continued to show dramatic growth in earnings from its cellular telephone business, which jumped from $785.5 million in 1993 to $1.06 billion in 1994.
Its subscriber base rose to 1.7 million, a gain of 62.1 percent from 1993.
The company's gains in wireless service were partially offset by a drop in the company's revenues from in-region toll calls, which dropped from $393.4 million in the fourth quarter of 1993 to $365.9 million in the same period last year.
Ms. Ciangio said that drop reflected competitive pressure from increasingly aggressive rivals. She said the drop was partly attributable to an expansion of local calling areas in Virginia.
The company's fourth-quarter earnings included a 4-cent-a-share charge reflecting the effects of the devaluation of the Mexican peso on the debt level of Grupo Iusacell, the Mexican cellular provider in which Bell Atlantic owns a 42 percent share.