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Comcast's earnings surge on sales of digital services

October 27, 2006|From Bloomberg News

Comcast Corp., the world's largest cable-television provider, said Thursday that third-quarter profit soared fivefold on the purchase of Adelphia Communications Corp. and record sales of telephone and digital television services.

The Philadelphia-based company reported that net income jumped to $1.22 billion, or 58 cents a share, from $222 million, or 10 cents, a year earlier. Sales rose 22% to $6.43 billion.

Excluding gains related to Adelphia, profit was 26 cents a share, beating the 19-cent average analyst estimate.

Comcast added more phone, digital TV and high-speed Internet customers than analysts predicted. The company's offer of all three services for $99 a month fueled the growth, Chief Executive Brian Roberts said. Next quarter will be "as good or better," Roberts told analysts Thursday on a conference call.

"Comcast has delivered on high expectations," said Craig Moffett, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York. Moffett has an "outperform" rating on the stock.

Comcast signed up 483,000 new digital voice customers, up from 72,000 a year earlier, and 558,000 digital cable customers, a 77% increase. About 536,000 customers bought high-speed Internet, the most for a quarter in two years.

UBS analyst Aryeh B. Bourkoff had estimated that Comcast would sign up 430,000 phone customers, 449,000 digital cable users and 469,000 high-speed Internet subscribers.

Comcast's stock has jumped 50% this year as the company won over customers with its phone service, surprising analysts with its growth. The shares rose $1.24 to $40 on Thursday.

"This is the fastest revenue growth of any time that I can remember," Roberts said in an interview. Roberts' father, Ralph J. Roberts, founded Comcast in 1963.

Comcast's average revenue per user rose to $91.89 from $81.94, beating Bourkoff's estimate of $91.34.

"The company's operational momentum is accelerating with each quarter," the UBS analyst said in an e-mail after the results. Bourkoff, who is based in New York, has a "buy" rating on the stock.

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