AT&T, Verizon chiefs give mixed economic outlook
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Top U.S. telecom executives gave a mixed outlook for the U.S. economy on Thursday, citing a lack of job creation, even as AT&T Inc (T.N) CEO said the company will add more mobile customers this quarter than last.
"Right now we're on pace in the third quarter to exceed what we did in the second quarter in terms of subscriber adds," AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson told a Goldman Sachs conference, citing total subscribers and bill paying users.
Stephenson did not give specific third-quarter customer numbers for the No. 2 U.S. mobile service, which added 1.4 million customers in the second quarter on a net basis.
But Stephenson said he is not seeing growth from corporate clients, which have been disconnecting phone lines as a weaker economy forces them to trim operations or worse, go bankrupt.
"Our view right now is we're probably going to run at a flattish level for some time," Stephenson said.
"I don't see it deteriorating further," he said. "In the second half of 2010 we see the opportunity for some growth."
But Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) Chief Executive Ivan Seidenberg had a bleaker view. He said that the U.S. economy is still contracting and that growth in small businesses was "not as fast as you'd like."
"At this point in the cycle very little job creation is occurring," he told the conference, citing comments from a meeting with business leaders a day earlier.
"The fact is the economy is still contracting," he said.
Verizon's Seidenberg also said it was too soon to estimate when the market starts to recover.
"Broader companies are not yet coming to the conclusion that there's a date everything gets better," he told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference.
Verizon -- which owns the top U.S. mobile service, Verizon Wireless, with Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L) -- has seen its mobile business suffer due to slower consumer spending, as well as competition from Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) iPhone, exclusively sold here by AT&T.
The heads of AT&T and Sprint Nextel Corp (S.N), the No. 3 U.S. mobile provider, both said regulation of telecom companies appears to be much tougher under the current administration.
AT&T's Stephenson described the Department of Justice review of its proposed purchase of Centennial Communications Corp CYCL.O as a slow and arduous process.
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse declined to comment on recent investor speculation that Sprint could be the target of an acquisition but the executive said that the regulatory review of any deal could be much tougher.
"We'll have to see who's the guinea pig, the first to test out the new administration," he said.
On the New York Stock Exchange, AT&T fell 17 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $26.37, Verizon dropped 55 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $29.86, and Sprint edged down 5 cents to $3.93 early Thursday afternoon.
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