Comcast Corp. reported sharply higher fourth-quarter earnings, propelled mainly by a boost in broadband and phone revenue, and unveiled a new brand for its core cable TV operations as it transforms into a media conglomerate.
On the eve of congressional hearings on its proposed purchase of a controlling stake in NBC Universal, Comcast said it would change the name of its cable TV, Internet and phone services to XFinity. The new brand will roll out in 11 markets Feb. 12 and expand nationally thereafter. Comcast will remain the name of the parent company.
Chief Executive Brian Roberts said the company had started to integrate the NBC Universal operations into its business. Although the deal to buy a 51% stake in NBC Universal from General Electric Co. faces strong opposition from many consumer groups and competitors, federal regulators are likely to approve it with conditions.
In the fourth quarter, Comcast also solidified its position as the nation's largest wired broadband provider, trumping AT&T Inc. for a second quarter in a row with 15.9 million high-speed Internet subscribers.
Comcast said it earned $955 million, or 33 cents a share, in the fourth quarter. That's more than double the $412 million, or 14 cents, it earned in the year-earlier period, which included a $600-million write-down of its investment in Clearwire Corp.
Excluding a one-time tax gain in the recent quarter, Comcast would have earned 29 cents a share. That exceeds the 27 cents expected by analysts.
Revenue rose 2.9% to $9.06 billion, beating the $8.96 billion estimated by analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.
Shares of Comcast fell 32 cents to $15.97.
Time Warner gets cable boost
Time Warner Inc. made a profit in the fourth quarter despite a decline in advertising revenue as the media company saw revenue gains in its cable channels such as HBO and its Warner Bros. movie studio.
The company said it earned $627 million, or 53 cents a share, in the last three months of 2009. It lost $16 billion, or $13.41, a year earlier when the company was hurt by heavy write-downs on its cable, publishing and AOL assets.
The company spun off AOL into a separate company last month and shed Time Warner Cable Inc. earlier last year to focus on creative content rather than the businesses that deliver it to customers.
Revenue increased 2% to $7.32 billion, despite an 8% drop in ad revenue.
Excluding one-time items, the company said it earned 55 cents a share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were looking for 52 cents. The revenue was also better than analysts' average forecast of $7.14 billion.
Shares were down 61 cents at $27.90.
Meanwhile, newly spun-off AOL reported a profit for the fourth quarter, reversing a year-earlier loss brought on by huge accounting charges.
AOL earned $1.4 million, or a penny a share, in the last three months of 2009. That compares with a loss of almost $2 billion, or $18.52, a year earlier, which included $2.2 billion worth of one-time charges.
Revenue dropped 17% to $809.7 million.
Cisco Systems profit soars 23%
Cisco Systems Inc. blew past its own forecast for the latest quarter, reporting its first sales increase in a year as it leaves the recession behind.
Chief Executive John Chambers said improvement was dramatic "across the board."
Cisco earned $1.9 billion, or 32 cents a share, up 23% from $1.5 billion, or 26 cents, a year earlier.
Excluding one-time charges, the world's biggest maker of computer networking equipment earned 40 cents a share. Analysts expected 35 cents.
Revenue increased 8% to $9.8 billion, topping analysts' forecasts of $9.4 billion.
Shares of San Jose-based Cisco rose 3 cents to $23.10 in extended trading. Before the release of results, shares closed up 5 cents at $23.07.
Broadcom's sales, net income rise
Broadcom Corp., the Irvine maker of semiconductors for wireless headsets and television set-top boxes, forecast first-quarter sales that exceeded analysts' estimates.
Sales will be flat to up 5% from the fourth quarter's $1.34 billion, the company said. That compares with the $1.24 billion average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
The company posted fourth-quarter net income of $59.2 million, or 11 cents a share, compared with a loss a year earlier. Revenue rose 19% to $1.34 billion, compared with the average estimate of $1.32 billion.
Broadcom shares fell 14 cents to $27.89 before the earnings news.
-- times wire services