IRVING, Texas (AP) _ GTE Corp. reported Thursday its third-quarter profit rose 16 percent, helped by strong sales of Internet and data services.

The telecommunications company said it earned $952 million, or 97 cents a share, compared with $822 million, or 85 cents a share, in the same period a year ago.

GTE, which is being acquired by Bell Atlantic Corp., beat the 95-cents-per-share estimate of analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial.

The earnings figure excludes a gain of $416 million, or 42 cents a share, mostly from the September sale of GTE's Government Systems business unit to General Dynamics. Including this gain, net income came to $1.4 billion, or $1.39 per share.

Chairman and chief executive Charles R. Lee said the company is on track to hit its target of 13 percent to 15 percent earnings growth.

Revenue rose 7.8 percent, to $6.43 billion from $5.97 billion.

Data-services revenue rose 30 percent over a year ago to $322 million, wireless revenue increased 21 percent, and Internetworking _ including Web hosting and e-business _ jumped 82 percent to $285 million.

Revenue from local phone service and directory publishing was flat at $3.9 billion.

The company reported an 11 percent increase, to 28.6 million, in the number of phone lines, but much larger increases came from long-distance hookups _ a 27 percent jump to 3.2 million.

The company also saw a 23 percent increase in wireless customers bringing the total to 6.8 million.

GTE's international operations were reported among the most profitable divisions, registering a 26 percent increase in earnings, to $144 million. The company cited a boost in new customers from Latin America and Taiwan. International revenue gained 31 percent, to $981 million.

In the first nine months of the year, GTE earnings excluding one-time items rose to $2.45 billion, or $2.50 a share, from $2.12 billion, or $2.19 a share, the year before.

Including one-time items, net earnings came to $3.03 billion, or $3.09 per share, up from $1.32 billion, or $1.36 per share.

Revenue increased to $18.6 billion from $17.3 billion.

GTE shares fell 94 cents to $72.44 on the New York Stock Exchange.