Here's what to expect from Ma Bell and the companies she hatched since the Bell System breakup in 1984:
Business is suffering from weak demand for voice and data long distance. But rivals WorldCom and Sprint are laboring under bigger debt loads, and the decline in long-distance prices has slowed. There's potential upside to AT&T. Long run, it's likely to be acquired.
2002 revenue growth is forecast at 10% to 12%, down from earlier estimates of 12% to 14%. The debt-to-earnings ratio is four times higher than Sprint PCS's. A merger with Cingular or Nextel is a welcome possibility this year or next.
The cable unit is expected to merge with Comcast later this year. The new AT&T Comcast will be saddled with $30 billion in AT&T debt, yet profits are forecast to grow 15%.
Local-phone giants BellSouth, Verizon, and SBC are the best-positioned companies in telecom, even though revenue and profit growth are slowing under pressure from wireless phone companies, cable TV, and e-mail. Qwest is a basket case--it's burdened with debt.
Orders are way down for Lucent and its spin-offs--chipmaker Agere and office-phone supplier Avaya. The question is, can Lucent survive until telecom capital spending picks up?
Data: J.P. Morgan Chase, ABN Amro, Merrill Lynch