"Telecommunications company GTE Corp., which is set to be acquired by Bell Atlantic Corp., said on Thursday its fourth-quarter profits rose 12 percent, in line with Wall Street expectations, driven by growth in data and wireless services.
"Irving, Texas-based GTE said fourth-quarter net income rose to $961 million, or 98 cents a share, compared with earnings of $855 million, or 88 cents, a year earlier.
"GTE has been aggressively moving into fast-growing areas such as data, Internet and wireless services, while trimming costs and focusing on more lucrative customers.
``Our focus has been on capturing high-growth opportunities, particularly in the Internet and data businesses, and in 1999 we made great strides in advancing this strategy,'' GTE Chairman Chuck Lee said in a statement.
"Wireless telephone service revenues amounted to $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter, including its recent acquisition of Ameritech wireless properties.
"GTE last year introduced a flat-rate wireless pricing plan in an effort to target high-spending customers and to position itself as a national carrier. GTE's wireless subscribers now exceed 7.1 million.
"The new pricing plan, however, pushed average revenue per wireless subscriber (ARPU) down about 2 percent to $46 a month in 1999. ARPU should see similar declines in 2000, although the national roll-out of new data services could add incremental revenue, O'Brien said.
"GTE saw wireless customer turnover, or churn, of about 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter, an improvement from last year.
"Over the past 12 months, GTE's telephone access lines grew 10 percent, while minutes of use, or volume, on its network increased 8 percent.
"O'Brien said GTE would cut costs further to prepare for its merger with Bell Atlantic. It may cut jobs in slow-growing businesses, but it may add jobs in fast-growing areas such as data and wireless.
``We are very much focused on being a good position to enter into this merger,'' O'Brien said.