Louisiana-based U.S. Unwired, a wireless telephone service provider that operates under the Sprint PCS name, has signed an agreement to acquire Macon-based Georgia PCS in a $90.5 million deal that involves stock and the assumption of debt.

In other telecom news, Raleigh-based Z-Wave is moving to acquire customers from Broadslate, which is shutting down next month. And Cox Communications foresees continued customer growth.

Terms of the U.S. Unwired deal, which is pending the approval by Sprint PCS and the completion of an audit of Georgia PCS, require U.S. Wired to issue 5.5 million shares of stock worth an estimated $35.7 million, and to pay off $54.8 million in Georgia PCS debt.

The transaction is expected to close in March. If the deal is approved it will increase U.S. Unwired’s service territory, which is adjacent to Georgia PCS’s territory, to more than 17.6 million customers.

U.S. Unwired will also enter into a new $40 million credit facility with several investment banks, including Charlotte-based First Union Securities, Inc., bringing its current credit line with the same institutions to $170 million. The company already borrowed $50 million under the original agreement in 2000.

U.S. Unwired has yet to turn a profit. The company recorded a $99 million loss on sales of $213.8 million through third quarter 2001. U.S. Unwired will release its 2001 annual report on March 6.

U.S. Wired wants to acquire Georgia PCS in order to gain control of its share of Sprint’s networks in Brunswick, Centerville, Dalton, Dublin, Macon, Rome, Valdosta and Warner Robbins, and the 1.4 million who are customers on those networks.

Z-Wave picks up customers from dissolving ISP Broadslate

Raleigh-based Z-Wave, a startup Internet service provider, is announcing that it has signed an agreement with Va.-based ISP Broadslate Networks to pick up the company’s remaining customers before Broadslate shuts down on March 15.

Broadslate, which has about 300 business customers throughout North Carolina, was not able to continue generating enough revenue to sustain its operations, according to a statement issued by the company. Broadslate is the latest in a long line of competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) that have gone belly up during the last year due to the downturn in the telecom sector. Earlier this month the company announced that DSL.net also acquired some of its customer base.

Z-Wave will begin moving Broadslate customers over to its network this week. Z-Wave CEO Steve Holder was not immediately available for comment, and a Z-Wave employee indicated that Holder would be involved in meetings all week regarding the acquisition of Broadslate’s customers. In a prepared statement, Holder indicated that he is intent on keeping Z-Wave from becoming another ISP flash in the pan.

“By expanding carefully and sticking to our business plan we will avoid the pitfalls that faced the DSL carriers,” the statement said.

Z-Wave, which offers high-speed Internet services over a wireless connection, announced a deal in December that the company hopes would help it expand from its current customer base of 80 business clients in Wake County. Z-Wave partnered with Durham-based Quality Communications, Inc., a technology consulting firm, to use QCI’s network of business associates to help it expand Z-Wave’s customer base.

Businesses interested in using Z-Wave’s wireless services are initially required to pay about $800 for the equipment, and then $79 a month for service, according to a company sales representative.

Cox sees 54 percent drop in profits

Atlanta-based cable operator Cox Communications is reporting a 54 percent decline in net income during fourth quarter 2001, but company officials say that revenue, cash flow and new subscribers will at least meet last year’s growth rate.

Through Dec. 31, Cox reported a net loss of $110.1 million, down from $71.6 million in fourth quarter 2000. Revenue increased 14 percent from $945.9 million in fourth quarter 2001 to $1.08 billion in the same period last year.

Cox, the nation’s fifth-largest cable company, took a one-time charge of $155.7 million related to moving high-speed Internet customers from cable Internet service provider Excite At Home, which declared bankruptcy late last year and is slowly ceasing its operations, to its own network. Cox officials say 99 percent of Excite At Home customers have been moved to its network.

For the year, Cox posted a net income of $750.1 million on revenue of $4.06 billion compared to net income of $1.93 billion on revenue of $3.5 billion in 2000.

Excluding the high-speed Internet charge, Cox’s cash flow increased 12 percent from $386.5 million in 2000 to $432.5 million last year. The company is betting that future growth in its telephone services group will spur continued growth throughout the company.

Cox says it is not actively pursuing new acquisitions after losing its bid to purchase AT&T Broadband to rival cable giant Comcast last year.

Industry observers predicted that following the Telecommunications Act of 1996 cable companies, with their vast networks connected to most homes throughout the U.S., would rival the Baby Bells as local telephone service providers. That prediction never did materialize, although some cable firms like Cox are offering residential telephone services in some areas.