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Comcast fourth-quarter profits triple, but misses estimates

Thu, 02/01/2007 - 6:48am

By DEBORAH YAO AP Business Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable television operator, said Thursday that fourth-quarter profits nearly tripled on a 30 percent increase in revenue as customers signed up for its discounted video, Internet and phone package.

But the latest earnings fell short of analysts' forecasts and Comcast shares fell in pre-market trading.

The Philadelphia-based company said it earned $390 million, or 18 cents per share, in the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with $133 million, or 6 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

Revenue rose 29.7 percent to $7.03 billion from $5.42 billion in the prior year.

Excluding one-time items related to discontinued operations and the Adelphia asset swap with Time Warner Cable, Comcast had earnings of 21 cents a share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were forecasting earnings of 24 cents a share on revenue of $7.13 billion. Those estimates typically exclude one-time items.

Comcast shares fell 35 cents to $44 in pre-market trading.

Comcast expects revenue from its cable, Internet and phone businesses to increase by 12 percent this year from 2006. It expects to add 6.5 million revenue generating units, or RGUs, this year. That's up by 30 percent from 2006.

A key gauge of performance, RGUs count the number of individually subscribed services; three customers each subscribing to digital cable TV and high-speed Internet service count as six RGUs.

For the year, Comcast earned $2.53 billion, or $1.19 a share, on revenue of $24.97 billion. It earned $928 million, or 42 cents a share, on revenue of $21.08 billion in 2005.

In the quarter, Comcast said revenue from its cable TV, Internet and digital voice service rose by 14 percent overall to $6.89 billion from a year ago. Results assume that the acquisition of Susquehanna Communications and purchase and swap of Adelphia's assets took effect in January 2005.

Operating cash flow rose by 17 percent to $2.75 billion. The three businesses added 1.6 million RGUs in the quarter, up 74 percent from 2006.

Among its business segments, Comcast video generated fourth-quarter revenue of $4.2 billion, up 7.7 percent from last year. The company added 110,000 basic subscribers in the quarter, which it says was the highest showing in over a decade, for a total of 24.2 million customers.

The number of digital video subscribers rose by 613,000, up from 365,000 last year, for a total of 12.7 million customers.

As for high-speed Internet, Comcast posted a 23 percent increase in revenue to $1.5 billion. The company added 488,000 customers, up 12 percent from the same quarter a year ago. Comcast serves 11.5 million broadband Internet customers.

Comcast's phone service, which has been siphoning customers from local phone companies, posted the fastest growth among its core businesses. Revenue jumped by 77 percent to $302 million as the company added 508,000 new customers in the quarter - more than triple its catch a year ago. Digital voice customers now total 1.9 million. Comcast lost 87,000 circuit-switched phone customers as the company focuses on providing digital phone service over its cable lines.

Comcast also said it's splitting its stock 3-for-2 on Feb. 21.

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