AT&T Announces Expansion Plans, Dividend Increase

At its annual analysts conference, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) said it plans to invest $14 billion over the next three years for wireless and wired capital improvements. This includes an expansion of 4G LTE service to 300 million people by the end of 2014, a big challenge to cable and satellite providers.

The carrier had previously announced plans to buy additional wireless spectrum in order to reach 250 million people nationwide with LTE by the end of 2013.

The overall plan is called Project VIP, and its investments include $8 billion for wireless and $6 billion for wired. That will bring total capital spending to $22 billion per year for the next three years. Greater revenue opportunities from the investments are expected to boost AT&T's earnings per share in the mid-single digits and expand consolidated margins over three years.

AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said:

We have the opportunity to improve AT&T's revenue growth and cost structure for years to come, and create substantial value for shareowners. Revenues in our key growth areas - wireless data, U-verse and strategic business services - are all growing at a strong double-digit rate. Project VIP expands our potential in these key platforms and makes them available to many more customers. With our strong balance sheet, these capital investments are manageable. We are very confident in our ability to execute this plan.

As a sign of that confidence, the AT&T board of directors raised the quarterly dividend rate 2.3% to $0.45 a share on a quarterly basis, or from $1.76 to $1.80 a share on an annualized basis. That is the 29th consecutive annual dividend increase.

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