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Verizon Ponders Sale, Spin-Off of Unit

NEW YORK (AP) _ Telecommunications giant Verizon Communications Inc., which is closing in on completion of its purchase of MCI Inc., is considering selling or spinning off the domestic operations of its directories publishing business, Verizon Information Services.

The New York-based phone company disclosed late Sunday that it was reviewing its alternatives for the domestic directories business, which includes almost 1,200 Verizon directory titles with a circulation of about 121 million copies.

While Verizon did not say how much the business was worth, The Wall Street Journal reported in Monday's editions that a divestiture could be valued at more than $17 billion.

Verizon said Verizon Information Services had operating revenue of $3.6 billion in 2004, operates from Texas and employs 7,300 people.

Verizon said divesting VIS through a spin-off, sale or other strategic transaction, is aimed at sharpening its focus on three core network-based businesses in the wireless, broadband and enterprise markets.

The company said it has hired Bear Stearns & Co. Inc. and JPMorgan Securities Inc. as its financial advisers, and anticipates that it could complete a disposition in 2006.

Verizon also said it expects to close its $7.5 billion takeover of MCI ``shortly.'' The Federal Communications Commission approved the transaction on Oct. 31, but several states still must sign off on the deal.
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