AT&T Earnings Shows Gains (and Loses)

AT&T posts big net loss but claims new subscriber gains.

Depending on how you look at the numbers, things are either looking up or down for AT&T (NYSE:T). The carrier and wireless giant posted fourth quarter revenues on Thursday that show growth, though net income fell. Helping to drive the growth at AT&T is continued demand for smartphones and the data those mobile devices consume.

For the quarter, AT&T reported revenues of $32.5 billion for a 3.6 percent year-over-year gain. For the full 2011 fiscal year, AT&Ts revenues came in at $126.7 billion, which is a 2 percent gain over 2010. On the net income side, for the fourth quarter AT&T was hit by a $6.7 billion loss or $1.12 per share.

The quarter's loses were due to a number of factors, according to AT&T, including an actuarial loss on benefit plans, a loss for directory asset impairments and a termination fee for the T-Mobile USA acquisition. AT&T had originally announced its intention to acquire T-Mobile USA in a $39 billion deal back in March of 2011. After mounting opposition from rivals and the U.S. Government, AT&T dropped the bid in December, triggering a $4 billion termination fee.

The T-Mobile deal as well as the U.S. Government's interference were hinted at by AT&T's CEO during the company's earning call.

"We don't know how much spectrum we're allowed to hold and who we're allowed to do business with," said Randall Stephenson, AT&T CEO. "We've seen explosive mobile broadband growth and that cannot continue without more spectrum, it's time for Congress and the FCC to step up."

Governmental challenges aside, AT&T continued to show growth for its wireless activities. Wireless data revenues grew by $956 million or 19.4 percent on a year-over-year basis. Fueling that growth was AT&T's best-ever quarter for smartphones with 9.4 million units sold. Looking deeper, it was the Apple iPhone which was the big winner with 7.6 million iPhones activated during the quarter. The iPhone 4S went on sale October 14th and represented the majority of the iPhone sales.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

Tags: iPhone, AT&T

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