Verizon promises smooth iPhone launch

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Verizon was also helped by another Apple device. It started selling the iPad tablet computer in October, and bundled it with an Internet access device that comes with a two-year contract. It also started selling a competing tablet, Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy Tab, with a data plan. Together, Verizon sold 86,000 tablets.

The company also got a boost from the launch of its super-fast “4G” cellular data network in December. It sold 65,000 plug-in modems for laptops for that network in three weeks.

The New York-based telecommunications company reported net income of $2.64 billion, or 93 cents per share, for the last three months of 2010. That’s up from $617 million, or 22 cents per share, a year ago, but the increase was mainly because of adjustments for the value of the company’s retirement plans.

Excluding special items, earnings were 54 cents per share, a penny shy of analysts’ estimates.

Revenue fell 2.6 percent to $26.4 billion from $27.1 billion and was roughly in line with analyst estimates of $26.5 billion. Verizon sold off landlines in outlying areas last summer, reducing revenue compared with a year earlier.

Verizon announced last week that it was changing how it accounts for the value of plans that cover pensions and retiree health care. The company will recognize losses and gains in its plans in the same year they occur rather than amortizing them over time, as is standard practice. Verizon had accumulated $20.2 billion in losses that were going to weigh on future earnings, but the maneuver allowed it to move those losses into the past.

In making the change, Verizon was following in the footsteps of AT&T, which moved $17 billion from future losses to the past. Analysts believe other companies with substantial retiree benefit plans may make similar changes.

Although Verizon Wireless is doing well, that doesn’t help the parent company, Verizon Communications, as much as it would like. Vodafone Group PLC owns 45 percent of Verizon Wireless and claims that proportion of its earnings. Meanwhile, Verizon’s local-phone business operates essentially at break-even, despite massive investment in upgrading its lines with optical fiber for FiOS Internet and TV service.

For the full year, Verizon said net income fell 48 percent to $2.5 billion, or 90 cents per share, from $4.9 billion, or $1.72 per share, in 2009. Revenue fell 1.2 percent to $107 billion, though it rose 3.9 percent excluding the summer’s sale of landlines to Frontier.

AT&T, Verizon’s chief rival in the wireless business, reports fourth-quarter results on Thursday.

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