Bell Atlantic on Verge of "Next Great Transformation," Chairman Tells Shareowners at Annual Meeting
Seidenberg: GTE Merger Expected Next Month
May 24, 2000
DENVER -- Bell Atlantic's financial and strategic accomplishments in 1999 and the first part of this year have brought the company to "the brink of the next great transformation in our history," Bell Atlantic Chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg told shareowners this morning at the company's annual meeting in Denver.
"Next month, we expect to complete the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE to create 'Verizon' - the next great brand in communications," Seidenberg said.
Verizon will start out as America's Number One wireline and wireless company, Seidenberg said, with more than 60 million access lines and more than 24.5 million wireless subscribers. Verizon also will be a leading provider of data services and hold a stake in Genuity, GTE's industry-leading Internet backbone and applications provider. Furthermore, Seidenberg said, "our domestic scale and scope will make us the Number One partner for anyone looking to access the U.S. market, giving us a major strategic advantage in the drive to offer global connectivity."
Bell Atlantic reached this strategic juncture while posting a fifth consecutive year of double-digit earnings growth in 1999 and accelerating its revenue growth in each of the past five quarters. Since the August 1997 Bell Atlantic-NYNEX merger, Seidenberg said, shareowners have enjoyed a return on their investment of approximately 50 percent.
"We've also built a solid record of expanding opportunities for employees," Seidenberg said, noting that between March 1999 and March 2000 the company added some 6,300 telecom jobs to meet the demand for communications services, especially for high-speed data and its new long distance business, as well as some 1,100 jobs at Bell Atlantic Mobile, now Verizon Wireless. The company also invested $114 million in training and education in that period.
"This job growth is directly related to our expansion into new markets," Seidenberg said.
Seidenberg said that while in 1998 three-quarters of the company's revenues came from traditional voice telephony, by 2003 half of Verizon's revenues will come from the high-growth data, wireless and international segments. And, while Bell Atlantic and NYNEX were each generating EPS (earnings per share) growth of 7-9 percent in the mid-'90s, their merger boosted EPS growth to the 10-12 percent range, and the merger with GTE will raise the target for EPS growth yet again.
"We have repositioned ourselves strategically by transforming our profile from a slow-growth regional utility into a national communications powerhouse, with the scale, scope and market reach to deliver a full plate of services - voice, data, Internet access, and wireless - to customers all across the country," Seidenberg said.
At the meeting, shareowners re-elected eight directors, each with at least 97 percent of the vote. The directors are Richard L. Carrion, Helene L. Kaplan, Joseph Neubauer, Thomas H. O'Brien, Hugh B. Price, Walter V. Shipley, John R. Stafford, and Seidenberg. It is anticipated that they will become directors of Verizon upon completion of the merger.
In other business, shareowners ratified the reappointment of Pricewaterhouse Coopers as independent auditor, and rejected several shareowner proposals.
Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry. With more than 44 million telephone access lines and more than 20 million wireless customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest investors in high-growth global communications markets, with operations and investments in 23 countries.