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Comcast tops estimates on growth in cable and broadband

Shannon Bond[1]

January 24, 2018

Comcast’s[2] fourth-quarter revenue and profits topped Wall Street’s estimates thanks to growth in its cable and broadband business and its NBCUniversal media arm and the US’s sweeping tax overhaul. The biggest US cable provider reported net income soared to £15bn, or £3.17 a share, from £2.3bn, or 48 cents a share, a year ago, mostly due to the impact of the corporate tax cut. Excluding adjustments including tax reform, earnings rose from 45 cents to 49 cents a share, ahead of the 48 cents analysts expected, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Revenue rose 4 per cent to £21.9bn, ahead of forecasts of £21.8bn, due to growth at the distribution business, NBC’s television networks, and the company’s theme parks. Comcast said it would funnel some of the windfall from the US tax overhaul to shareholders. It raised its annualised dividend 21 per cent to 76 cents a share this year, higher than 2017’s 11 per cent bump and “more than it otherwise would have been” without the impact of tax reform, said Mike Cavanagh, chief financial officer.

The company plans to repurchase at least £5bn in shares this year, in line with last year’s level. Total dividends and share buybacks in 2017 totalled £7.9bn. In the cable and internet business, Comcast’s biggest source of revenue and profits, sales rose 3 per cent in the final three months of the year to £13.3bn.

Adjusted earnings were up 4 per cent at £5.4bn. Customer additions slowed to 243,000 from 259,000 a year ago, as losses of video and voice subscribers somewhat offset gains in subscriptions to high-speed internet and security and automation services. But average revenue per customer relationship ticked up 0.7 per cent to £151.49.

NBCUniversal revenue rose 4 per cent to £8.8bn and adjusted earnings gained 6 per cent to £1.9bn. Sales rose at cable networks, broadcast television and theme parks, but declined at the Universal Studios film unit. The TV advertising business remained under pressure: broadcast sales were down 7 per cent at £1.9bn.

Cable ad sales rose 2 per cent to £878m. For the full year of 2017, Comcast’s revenue rose 5 per cent to £84.5bn, compared with analysts’ forecasts of £84.4bn. Net income jumped to £22.7bn, or £4.75 a share, from £8.7bn, or £1.78 a share, including the tax changes.

Stripping that out, earnings of £2.06 beat Wall Street’s estimates of £2.04.

References

  1. ^ Shannon Bond (www.ft.com)
  2. ^ Comcast’s (markets.ft.com)

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