Cincinnati Bell 4Q falls 88 pct on debt, restructuring charges; landline disconnects continue

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cincinnati Bell 4Q falls 88 percent on charges

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bell Inc. said Thursday that its fourth-quarter earnings fell 88 percent mainly due to restructuring and debt charges, but its revenue declined as well as consumers disconnect their traditional phone lines.

The company also said it would buy back an additional $150 million worth of its shares.

Local phone companies are struggling with losses of landline customers, as consumers switch to cell phones and calls made over the Internet, such as those offered by cable TV companies.

Cincinnati Bell earned $4.2 million, or 2 cents per share, in the quarter compared with a profit of $34.9 million, or 15 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

The 2009 quarter had a $11 million restructuring charge and an $18 million loss after paying off certain debt. The 2008 quarter had an $12 million gain on debt extinguishment.

Taking out these non-operating items, Cincinnati Bell said it earned $24 million in the quarter, down from $26 million in the prior-year quarter. Earnings per share were 10 cents for both periods.

Revenue fell by 3 percent to $345.2 million from $356.8 million.

Cincinnati Bell’s revenue exceeded the $332.2 million expected by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, but its earnings fell short of their forecasts by a penny.

At the end of the year, the company lost 56,200 local landlines from 2008 and cell phone lines fell by 24,600 as well. But prepaid mobile phone lines rose by 7,100. It gained 9,000 Internet customers using its fiber-optics lines while the DSL line count was about flat.

For the year, Cincinnati Bell earned $79.2 million, or 37 cents per share, compared with $92.2 million, or 38 cents per share, in 2008. Revenue fell 5 percent to $1.34 billion.

For 2010, Cincinnati Bell is projecting revenue of $1.3 billion. Analysts are expecting $1.32 billion.

Shares of the company, based in Cincinnati, were up 10 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $2.90 in afternoon trading.

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