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Comcast's Profit Surges as It Adds Subscribers

April 28, 2006|From the Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable TV operator, said Thursday that its net income for the first quarter more than tripled, buoyed by strength across all its business lines, including once-lagging digital voice.

The Philadelphia-based company earned $466 million, or 22 cents a share, in the latest quarter, compared with $143 million, or 6 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. The most recent quarter also got a boost from an investment gain of $64 million.

Operating income soared 21% to $1.05 billion in the quarter, while revenue rose 10% to $5.9 billion from the prior year.

"Let me be corny and say this was a Comcastic quarter," said Brian L. Roberts, chairman and chief executive of Comcast, borrowing a catchphrase from the company's ad slogans. "I can't imagine a stronger start to this year," he added during a conference call with analysts.

Shares rose $1.25 to $30.45.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial on average expected earnings of 14 cents a share on revenue of $5.83 billion.

Comcast added 47,000 customers who subscribe to at least basic cable, contrasted with a decline of 29,000 in the first quarter of 2005. The monthly revenue per subscriber was $86.75, up from $79 last year.

"There's an acceleration in the core video business. That's what drove the quarter," said Philip Remek, media analyst with Guzman & Co. in Coral Gables, Fla. "Comcast has been losing basic subscribers, and in the last couple of quarters that's turned around."

Comcast added 340,000 digital cable subscribers for a total of 10.1 million. Digital cable penetration as a proportion of video subscribers rose to 47% from 41% a year ago.

Overall, the number of basic subscribers was about flat year over year at 21.5 million.

As for high-speed Internet service, Comcast collected revenue of $1.1 billion in the quarter, up 22% from a year ago. The company added 437,000 net Internet subscribers, up from 414,000 a year earlier.

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