Verizon earned $1.76 billion in the first quarter, surpassing expectations as Verizon Wireless improved on its already industry-leading...

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Verizon earned $1.76 billion in the first quarter, surpassing expectations as Verizon Wireless improved on its already industry-leading performance and the DSL business posted its fastest growth yet.

The company declined after yesterday’s report to provide any comment regarding its next move in a tense bidding war to acquire long-distance carrier MCI, which over the weekend embraced a $9.75 billion offer from Qwest.

Executives refused to say whether Verizon will act by tomorrow’s deadline to improve on its $7.5 billion deal with MCI or possibly walk away from the three-month affair. Analysts and investors widely expect that Verizon will offer more, though again not as much as Qwest has bid.

Verizon’s first-quarter results exceeded Wall Street forecasts on multiple fronts, though a slight decline in profit margins raised some concern. Verizon’s shares jumped $1.22, or 3.6 percent, to close at $35.22 yesterday.

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Sony

Quarterly loss fueled by shrinking sales

Japanese electronics and entertainment company Sony yesterday reported a bigger group net loss for the January-March quarter compared to a year ago, battered by slumping sales and restructuring costs.

Tokyo-based Sony recorded a group net loss of 56.5 billion yen ($533 million) for the quarter, compared with a loss one year earlier of 38.2 billion yen.

Sony, which also has key music, movie and video-game businesses, said in a statement that sales shrank 4.2 percent to 1.697 trillion yen ($16 billion) from 1.772 trillion yen ($16.7 billion) for the same quarter last year.

Sony has been fighting off growing competition in consumer electronics from cheaper Asian manufacturers, while falling behind other rivals in critical hits like the iPod from Apple Computer. Sony has been struggling to make a turnaround, but the latest results show its recovery remains weak.

Sony shares, which have fluctuated over the past year to be little changed from a year ago, closed up 2 percent at 3,990 yen ($38) on the Tokyo Stock Exchange shortly before earnings were announced.

Anheuser-Busch

Net income sags as U.S. sales go flat

Anheuser-Busch said yesterday that first-quarter earnings dropped 6.7 percent due to higher costs and lower beer sales in the United States.

Net income dipped to $513 million, or 65 cents per share, from $550 million, or 67 cents per share, a year ago. Excluding a gain on the sale of a Spanish theme park, the company earned 63 cents per share in the latest quarter.

Total sales for the maker of Budweiser and Bud Light rose 2.5 percent to $3.56 billion from $3.48 billion last year, driven primarily by a 29 percent increase in international beer net sales. Those sales were up after the acquisition last year of north China brewer Harbin Brewery, higher entertainment-segment sales, and increased commodity-based sales from packaging operations.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for the company to post earnings of 63 cents per share on sales of $3.53 billion in the latest quarter.

Long a Wall Street darling for churning out double-digit earnings per share quarter after quarter, the nation’s largest brewer has fallen on flatter times as it duels to defend its market share against rival Miller and increasing consumer thirst for wine and distilled spirits. Anheuser-Busch had said its 2005 profits would grow in the low single digits.

Anheuser-Busch shares rose 41 cents to close at $46.96 yesterday. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $44.85 to $54.74.

Compiled from The Associated Press