Comcast tops profit, sales estimates

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Comcast, the largest U.S. cable company, topped profit and sales estimates in the first quarter after gains in broadband customers helped mitigate the 20th consecutive loss in video subscribers.

Net income rose 30 percent to $1.22 billion, or 45 cents a share, compared with $943 million, or 34 cents, a year earlier, the Philadelphia-based company said Wednesday. Analysts had projected 42 cents.

Comcast added 439,000 broadband subscribers in the quarter, topping the 382,000 average estimate of 11 analysts’ projections compiled by Bloomberg. The cable provider, facing competition from phone companies and Netflix Inc., lost 37,000 video customers. At least two analysts anticipated the first increase in cable-TV subscribers since 2007.

“Comcast has been out-executing everybody,” said Vijay Jayant, an analyst at ISI Group in New York. “Positive net adds on video is more of an optical event than truly affecting the financials, but it matters on investor sentiment.”

Comcast managed to curb video customer losses from a year earlier, when it shed 39,000 cable-TV subscribers. It marked the sixth consecutive quarter Comcast has limited video losses. Comcast raised subscriber fees for 62 percent of its customers, leading to some cancellations and an increase in average revenue per user, which jumped 7.8 percent to $143.40.

Comcast added a net of 164,000 phone customers, less than the 187,000 average analyst estimate.

Free cash flow in the quarter increased 37 percent to a record $3 billion.

“Comcast is taking share from the telcos in broadband, which in turn, with good pricing power, is leading to improved profitability and cash flow,” said Joel Levington, the managing director of corporate credit at Brookfield Investment Management in New York.

Comcast revenue increased 23 percent to $14.9 billion, topping estimates of $14.5 billion. NBC Universal sales rose 18 percent to $5.47 billion, helped in part by increased revenue from Super Bowl advertising.

Broadcast television revenue rose 37 percent to $1.85 billion. Cable network revenue advanced 5.8 percent to $2.1 billion.

Comcast bought back $750 million in shares after saying it would repurchase $3 billion in 2012 last quarter.


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