NEW YORK (AP) — The launch of the iPhone 5 helped AT&T attract more new customers in the holiday quarter than it has in three years, but the company posted a big loss because of an annual adjustment to its pension obligations.
AT&T Inc. on Thursday said it added a net 780,000 new phones and other devices on contract-based plans from October to December, its best result in three years. It activated 8.6 million iPhones in the quarter — a record for any company. AT&T was the first company to introduce the iPhone in 2007, and has more iPhone users than any other U.S. carrier.
AT&T's push to expand its market by getting non-phone devices connected to its network also helped, as nearly half of the new contract devices, or 380,000, were tablets.
However, AT&T remained well behind Verizon Wireless, the country's largest cellphone company. It added 2.2 million devices on contract-based plans to its network in the quarter, extending its lead.
Dallas-based AT&T's quarterly loss was $3.86 billion, or 68 cents per share. That compares with a loss of $6.68 billion, or $1.12 per share, a year earlier, also caused by an adjustment to pension and retiree benefit obligations.
AT&T provides benefits to about 360,000 retirees. Two years ago, it started accounting for its retirement benefit obligations with an annual fourth-quarter adjustment. That produces wild swings in fourth-quarter net income that don't relate to the company's underlying business, but do illustrate its large obligations to retirees.