Comcast's (NAS: CMCSA) share price jumped over 5% in the first couple of minutes of trading on Wednesday, reflecting the overall positive results of the company's just released fourth-quarter 2011 earnings statement.
First off, earnings per share for the quarter were $0.47, solidly exceeding analysts' consensus estimate of $0.42 a share. This EPS was an increase of 30.6% over the same period the previous year.
The main thrust of this growth came from its core cable operations, where it increased its high-speed Internet customers at a rate 15% higher than the quarter a year ago. It also added 146,000 digital voice subscribers, only half the number of fourth-quarter 2010 adds but still significant in this era of customers dropping fixed-line phone service for wireless.
Also significant was the stemming of the tide of video subscriber losses: only 17,000 video escapees, versus 165,000 gone the previous quarter, and 238,000 in quarter two. Almost half a million for the year! The earlier greater video losses were from the combined effects of belt-tightening caused by the financial crisis and the migration of customers streaming their programming through their Internet pipelines.
But adding up video, high-speed Internet, and voice customers produced a net cable gain of 465,000 customers for the quarter, an increase of 12.3% over fourth-quarter 2010.
Overall, quarterly revenue from Comcast's cable communications division grew by 4.7% over fourth-quarter 2010. Highlighted growth came from high-speed Internet at 10.1%, and business services at 36.8%. The only losing segment was advertising, declining 9.3%. The latter was attributed to lower political advertising revenue (which seems a bit counter to what seems like it should be a banner year for political advertising).
In this, the first year of NBC Universal's integration into the Comcast solar system, there were positives and negatives; combined, they produced 0.8% of quarterly revenue growth over the same period last year.
The biggest quarterly revenue producers for NBC Universal were its cable networks. They provided 5.3% growth over last year's fourth quarter. Not far behind were the two theme parks that came with the acquisition, providing 4% growth over the same time frame. Broadcast, with NBC not having the best time ratings-wise, was down 3.7%, and filmed entertainment -- in spite of the success of Bridesmaids and Fast Five -- dropped 1.8% over the same quarter last year.
What about the Verizon deal?
Interestingly, Comcast's wireless spectrum and co-marketing deal with Verizon (NYS: VZ) was not mentioned at all in the SEC filing. It was, however, talked about in the company's earnings conference call. In response to an analyst's question about the results of that deal, Neil Smit, cable division president, said: "We are pleased with the results ... We are working together. They have been great partners. I think on that front, it is probably early to tell."
That deal -- even though Comcast and Verizon have already rolled it out in four markets -- has not yet been approved by the regulators. Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) , T-Mobile, and DIRECTV (NAS: DTV) have asked the Federal Communications Commission to make public the details of the co-marketing agreements. A Senate subcommittee has also called for a probe of the arrangement.
Comcast dividends will increase 44% to $0.65 annually in 2012. The company's board of directors has also approved a $6.5 billion share repurchase program, with $3 billion of that expected to be spent this year. Add those shares to the $2 billion worth Comcast bought back in 2011.
All of the above, along with the $8.1 billion of free cash flow the company produced in 2011, leads me to give Comcast a thumbs-up in CAPS.
That dividend increase for Comcast will bring its yield up around the S&P's average yield. For a list of other income-producing stocks that will help investors through the inevitable market ups and downs, read this free report put together by The Motley Fool's Stock Advisor team. Don't delay this important action. Remember, it's free; just click here!
At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorDan Radovskyhas no financial interest in the above-mentioned companies. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.
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