AT&T gains 780K customers, posts $3.8B loss

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NEW YORK The launch of the iPhone 5 helped AT&T (T) attract more new customers in the holiday quarter than it has in three years, but it posted a big loss because of an annual adjustment to its pension obligations.

AT&T on Thursday said added a net 780,000 new customers 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.

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.

Excluding special items, AT&T earned 44 cents per share, 2 cents short of the average analyst estimate as polled by FactSet.

Revenue was $32.6 billion, up a hair from $32.5 billion a year ago. It slightly exceeded analyst estimates of $32.2 billion.

AT&T shares rose 5 cents to $33.80 in extended trading, after the release of the results.