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Comcast sees Q4 loss, but subs jump

Tue, 02/05/2002 - 7:00pm
Anne Kerven

Subscriptions in all sectors rose in the fourth quarter, and Comcast Corp.'s revenue reached $9.7 billion for the year, but the cableco showed a $321 million, or 34 cents a share, net loss in its fourth quarter.

On the sub side, the cableco added 213,800 digital cable subscriptions in its fourth quarter, for a weekly average of more than 16,400 net additions. Its year end saw it with 2.3 million digital cable units, or a pro forma 54 percent increase over 2000.

The cable unit added 155,400 high-speed Internet customers, a 33 percent jump over the prior quarter and an average 12,000 net additions per week. It counted 948,100 high-speed Internet customers at year's end, or a pro forma 98 percent over the previous year.

Comcast says its digital cable is available to almost 99 percent of its cable subscribers, and high-speed Internet was marketed to 75 percent of the residents it serves.

The past year also saw the company nearly finish its cable system rebuild. As of Dec. 31, 95 percent of those systems claimed a capacity of at least 550 MHz or 80 analog channels. Comcast also invested in its acquired cable systems — by year's end, all of the Prime and Lenfest systems it purchased were upgraded; 83 percent of the systems it bought with Adelphia Communications Corp. were built up; and 88 percents of the systems it acquired from AT&T Corp. also had undergone upgrades.

Comcast's cable results are reported on a pro forma basis, and include the January 2000 purchase of Lenfest and Prime, acquired in August 2000. They also include the cable systems exchanged with AT&T Corp and Adelphia in December 2000 and January 2001, as well as the 585,000 cable subscriptions Comcast picked up from AT&T in April 2001 and the 112,000 subscriptions it landed from AT&T in June.

Pro forma fourth-quarter cable revenue reached $1.38 billion, up 9.1 percent from the $1.26 billion it reported for the same period a year ago. Revenue for 2001 reached $5.3 billion — up from $4.8 billion in 2000 — in the cable unit, on a pro forma basis. Capital expenditures in the cable unit rose to $1.9 billion for the year, compared with $1.3 billion a year ago.

Plans call for, of course, more subscribers. In 2002, Comcast Cable expects to add 600,000 to 700,000 new digital cable units and 400,000 to 500,000 high-speed Internet customers. The unit also will cut its capital expenditures to $1.3 billion for cable system maintenance, upgrades and deployments, with the bulk — $625 million — going toward deployments.

Finally, Comcast Cable plans a pro forma revenue growth of 10 percent to 12 percent. Its guidance doesn't include its planned purchase of AT&T Broadband, it says.

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