Buoyed by explosive growth in its cellular operations and a dramatic cut in employee costs, Bell Atlantic Corp. yesterday reported a robust 11.2 percent gain in operating income during its third quarter.
The Philadelphia-based regional telephone company reported net earnings of $604.8 million, or $1.38 per share, compared with a loss of $1.87 billion, or $4.29 per share in last year's third quarter.
But the 1995 quarter was inflated by a one-time after-tax gain of $203 million from the sale of overlapping cellular properties resulting from the merger of its Bell Atlantic Mobile arm with Nynex's wireless operations. Meanwhile, last year's third-quarter loss was largely the result of a $2.3 billion write-off.
Bell Atlantic said that on an operating basis its quarterly earnings were $441.9 million, or $1.01 a share, compared with $397.5 million, or 91 cents a share, the previous year.
Leading the growth in the quarter was its wireless partnership, which reported annual subscriber growth of 47 percent to bring its total to nearly 3 million.
Meanwhile, the land-based telephone network showed 3.3. percent growth in access lines, bolstered by a 45 percent year-to-date increase in sales of second phone lines to residential customers.
More than $200 million of the company's increased earnings could be attributed to a drop in employee expenses, from $1.2 billion to $1 billion, as the company continued to cut jobs. The number of employees per 10,000 access lines dropped 6.5 percent, Bell Atlantic reported.
The savings more than offset continued declines in revenues from short-haul toll calls, where the company is facing stiff competition from long-distance companies in some of the Mid-Atlantic states.