AT&T 4Q Profit Spirals 26% Thanks to Mobile Data

AT&T Inc. (T) reported a $3.02 billion profit for 2009’s fourth quarter, thanks to fewer charges on the books and the addition of an almost-record number of wireless subscribers.

Net income for the service provider – which now is the exclusive carrier for both the Apple iPhone and newly introduced iPad – was up 26 percent, or $2.4 billion, from the year-ago period. However, revenue did decline a smidge – .7 percent to reach $30.86 billion – as the wireline unit continued to lose customers.

That number still meshed with analysts’ expectations, though. Wall Street, on average, was expecting AT&T to report $30.87 billion in sales.

Unsurprisingly, AT&T’s increases came from what the company called “rapid” adoption of smartphones, e-readers and netbooks. That usage pushed mobile data revenue up by 26.3 percent to $3.9 billion. And the carrier added 2.7 million mobile users to its network in the fourth quarter, the second-highest number for a quarter ever for AT&T.

The Texas-based carrier also gained more U-verse TV accounts – up 248,000 for a total of 2.1 million – and more U-verse broadband users, up by 267,000. Businesses opted to use more of AT&T’s services as well, with the most growth coming from Ethernet, hosting, conferencing and VPNs.

“We had a solid 2009 and led the industry in the biggest growth driver — mobile broadband,” Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman and CEO, said in a prepared statement. “Looking ahead, customer demand for connectivity, particularly mobile broadband and IP data, continues to be strong, and AT&T is well-positioned at the center of this growth. Our fundamental outlook for the business is quite positive.”

AT&T shares were trading lower about 2:05 p.m. on Thursday, down .31 percent to $25.52.


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