Comcast Corp reported a better-than-expected 6 percent rise in quarterly revenue, but the cable giant's profit was undercut by fees it paid to bankers and lawyers involved in its acquisition of NBC Universal.
Comcast, which has been working closely with regulators and hopes to close the NBC Universal deal late this year, benefited from more of its customers buying a more expensive package of services, signing up for phone, cable and broadband, for instance. A rebound in advertising also helped.
The result is that revenue climbed to $9.53 billion, surpassing the average estimate of $9.29 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Analysts said that overshadowed a slight decline in profit to $884 million, or 31 cents a share, from $967 million, or 33 cents a share, a year earlier.
This focus on more profitable subscriber additions, while it means a lower volume basis, the higher profitability is better for the long term, said David Joyce, an analyst with Miller Tabak. So I think it's positive for the stock.
Indeed, analysts had largely predicted that Comcast would show better overall subscriber growth, and hold on to more of its basic cable customers. Joyce, for instance, had forecast Comcast losing 110,000 basic cable customers for the quarter, when it actually lost 265,000.
Comcast also added fewer high-speed Internet customers during the period than the 175,000 to 195,000 that most had expected. Still, the 118,000 that it did add was some 82 percent above year-earlier additions.
Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research pointed out that while Comcast added fewer broadband customers than expected, the numbers nonetheless shine in comparison to telecommunication company rivals, such as AT&T Inc .
Our long-term bull case for cable -- at least, before regulatory concerns clouded the picture -- is that cable will win the broadband war ... and that copious free cash flow will stem from that, Moffett wrote in a research note.
Comcast's results today paint a picture of a company with a clear technology advantage versus competitors, and one that is reaping the benefits, he added.
Shares of Comcast rose 1.5 percent to $19.63 on Nasdaq early Wednesday afternoon.
If the NBC Universal deal closes, Comcast will not only be delivering customers TV shows and movies; it will also be the company behind their production. Terms call for Comcast to buy a majority stake from General Electric Co , giving it control of the NBC TV network, plus a suite of cable channels, a movie studio and other entertainment assets.
Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts said the planning for the combination is well underway and that costs associated with the deal totaled about $37 million in the quarter.
He also said he was more upbeat on the deal than ever -- in part because of the recovery in the ad market. Roberts' right-hand man, Chief Operating Officer Steve Burke, who is running the integration process, said annual advertising revenue at Comcast would rise from about $2.5 billion to nearly $10 billion with the combination.
Having the advertising market rebound is a very good thing for the combined company, Burke said.
(Reporting by Paul Thomasch; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Maureen Bavdek and Richard Chang)