Customer growth lifts Cingular earnings

Cingular Wireless, the largest cell phone provider in the US, said its fourth-quarter profit nearly quadrupled, boosted by customer growth during the holidays, according to an Associated Press report.

The Associated Press report said Cingular earned $782 million during the fourth quarter, compared with $204 million in the same quarter of 2005.
The company reported revenue of $9.8 billion, up 10% from $8.8 billion in the year-ago period, the report said.

The company, which was rebranded under the AT&T name last week, was a joint venture of Atlanta-based BellSouth and AT&T before AT&T completed its $86 billion purchase of BellSouth last month. The wireless company will report earnings as part of the parent company in future quarters.

The wireless unit's growth in the fourth quarter was driven in part by a net increase of 2.4 million customers during the holiday quarter, typically the heaviest selling season for cell phones. Cingular has more than 60 million customers, the report said.

Company executives had said Cingular's churn rate, the percent of customers who switch to other carriers, could increase from new lows. But in the fourth quarter, the churn rate was 1.5%, the same as in the third quarter and lower than the 1.9% it reported in the year-ago quarter.