Copyright 2004 Inc.

February 11, 2004 Wednesday 9:39 AM Eastern Time

While its hostile bid for Disney was the talk of Wall Street, Comcast also reported earnings Wednesday that far surpassed analysts' estimates on a big rebound in subscriber growth.

The cable operator earned $383 million, or 17 cents a share, on revenue of $4.74 billion, compared with a loss of $51 million, or 3 cents a share, on revenue of $3 billion a year ago.

The year-ago quarter included a $105 million loss from discontinued operations.

Analysts had been forecasting earnings of 3 cents a share on revenue of $4.74 billion, according to Thomson One Analytics.

The company's cable division added 373,000 digital cable subscribers during the quarter and 70,000 basic cable subscribers, and produced operating cash flow of $1.71 billion, up 63 percent from last year, on a pro forma basis. The operating cash flow margin in the cable unit was 38 percent in the quarter, up from a pro forma 25.3 percent last year.

In its content segment, revenue was $250 million in the fourth quarter, up 13.4 percent from a year ago, while operating cash flow was $58 million, up 23.1 percent from a year ago.

The company expects 2004 revenue to rise about 10 percent from the $18.35 billion it pub up in 2003, with broadband Internet revenue up by more than 30 percent. It expects to spend about $3.3 billion on its cable system this year.