Comcast profit beats on Internet adds, NBC rebound

Wed May 2, 2012 1:28pm EDT

Comcast Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts speaks at his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada in this January 8, 2008 file photo. Comcast Corp posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit on continued growth in high-speed internet subscribers, a strong performance at its movie studio, and signs of a turnaround at its NBC broadcast business. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/Files

Comcast Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts speaks at his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada in this January 8, 2008 file photo. Comcast Corp posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit on continued growth in high-speed internet subscribers, a strong performance at its movie studio, and signs of a turnaround at its NBC broadcast business.

Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking/Files

(Reuters) - Comcast Corp posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit on continued growth in high-speed Internet subscribers, a strong performance at its movie studio, and signs of a turnaround at its NBC broadcast business.

But its shares dipped 2.5 percent as the No.1 U.S. cable company lost more video subscribers than some investors had expected in what has traditionally been its strongest quarter.

Chief Executive Brian Roberts said on a conference call the company had a strong performance across the board with a noted improvement at NBC Universal, a cable networks-to-theme parks business.

Philadelphia-based Comcast added more than 439,000 high-speed Internet subscribers during the quarter, and about 164,000 phone customers.

It lost 37,000 video customers, down from losses of 39,000 a year earlier.

"The expectation has gotten very high that Comcast could post video additions ... but these numbers are moving in the right direction," said Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett.

Comcast Cable chief Neil Smit told analysts on the call that the losses of video customers may have been exacerbated by an increase in prices that affected nearly 60 percent of its customers.

First-quarter net income was $1.22 billion, or 45 cents a share, up from $943 million, or 34 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts on average had forecast 42 cents a share. Revenue rose 9.6 percent to $14.88 billion.

"The wider results point to higher valuations - they beat on margins, on profits, on free cash flow," Moffett said.

At NBC Universal, revenue rose 18 percent to $5.47 billion, boosted by the broadcast of the 2012 Super Bowl in February. Even without that showpiece, the unit's revenue was up 12.4 percent at $5.21 billion. Comcast acquired a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal from General Electric Co last year.

NBC, the long-struggling No. 4 U.S. broadcast TV network, posted a 37 percent jump in revenue thanks to the Super Bowl. Without that program, revenue was still up by an impressive 18 percent. It was NBC's best performance since Comcast took control of NBC Universal.

But the TV unit was $10 million negative in operating cash flow as it invested heavily in new show launches, including the second season of "The Voice" and the debut of "Smash."

Universal Studios also posted a strong quarter with hit movies "The Lorax" and "Safe House," helping to drive up revenue by 23 percent to $1.2 billion.

The Universal theme parks had a 5.7 percent rise in revenue to $412 million.

Comcast shares fell 77 cents to $29.83 in morning trade on Nasdaq.

(Reporting By Yinka Adegoke in New York; Editing by Dave Zimmerman and John Wallace)

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