February 13, 2013 / 3:16 PM / 5 years ago

TEXT - Fitch affirms Comcast Corp 'BBB+' issuer default rating

Feb 13 - Fitch Ratings has affirmed the 'BBB+' Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs)
assigned to Comcast Corporation (Comcast) and its wholly owned
subsidiaries included in Comcast's cross-guaranty structure that hold all of the
company's cable businesses. Fitch has also upgraded the IDR assigned to
NBCUniversal Media, LLC (NBCUniversal, a direct wholly owned subsidiary of 
NBCUniversal, LLC) to 'BBB+' from 'BBB'. In addition, Fitch has affirmed 
specific issue ratings assigned to Comcast and its subsidiaries and upgraded 
NBCUniversal's senior unsecured issue ratings to 'BBB+' from 'BBB'. Lastly, the 
Rating Outlook for all of Comcast's ratings has been revised to Positive from 

Approximately $43.4 billion of Comcast's consolidated debt, including $11.2 
billion outstanding at NBCUniversal as of Dec. 31, 2012 (pro forma for Comcast's
$2.95 billion issuance of senior unsecured notes during Jan. 2013) is affected 
by Fitch's action.


--Comcast's pending acquisition of the remaining 49% ownership stake in 
NBCUniversal it does not own from General Electric Corporation (GE) is neutral 
to Comcast's current ratings.

--Amendment of the existing cross guaranty structure to include the debt issued 
by NBCUniversal leads to linkage of the ratings.

--The adoption of a more conservative 1.5x to 2x leverage target signals 
leverage will further strengthen during ratings horizon. 

Fitch believes Comcast has sufficient capacity within the current ratings to 
accommodate the modest increase in leverage expected in connection with the 
redemption of GE's ownership interest. The proposed transaction is viewed as a 
positive event because it provides Comcast with unfettered access to 
NBCUniversal's strong cash flow generation and removes the ownership overhang 
from Comcast's credit profile. However, Comcast's redemption of GE's ownership 
interest in NBCUniversal does not change the company's or NBCUniversal's 
operating profile. 

Fitch expects a large portion of the transaction will be funded with existing 
cash. Comcast and NBCUniversal have executed several capital market and asset 
sale transactions that have built the company's consolidated cash balance to 
approximately $13.9 billion as of Dec. 31, 2012(pro forma for Comcast's $2.95 
billion issuance of senior unsecured notes during January 2013). The balance of 
the funding requirement will be satisfied through the issuance of $6 billion of 
incremental debt, including $4 billion of senior notes issued to GE. Comcast's 
leverage increases to 2.4x pro forma for the transaction from an estimated 2x as
of year-end 2012. Fitch anticipates consolidated leverage to improve to 2.2x by 
year-end 2013 and strengthen to 2x by the end of 2014. 

The Positive Outlook reflects the foreseen improvement of Comcast's credit 
protection metrics over the near term along with the more conservative leverage 
target adopted by management. In Fitch's opinion, the company's strong cable 
operating profile along with the margin improvement opportunities within 
NBCUniversal's broadcasting segment and modest debt reduction will enable 
Comcast to drive leverage within its new target during the current ratings 

The upgrade of NBCUniversal's IDR and senior unsecured ratings follows the 
inclusion of NBCUniversal into Comcast's cross guaranty structure, which 
effectively renders the NBCUniversal indebtedness to rank pari passu with the 
debt currently included in the cross guaranty. Fitch estimates 88% of 
consolidated debt will be included in the cross guaranty structure pro forma for
the GE redemption transaction. Comcast's and NBCUniversal's IDRs will be linked 
by Fitch going forward. Comcast's addition of NBCUniversal Media's debt into the
cross guaranty structure together with the strong strategic tie and ownership 
consolidation provide sound rationale for linking the ratings. 

Fitch does not expect any material change to Comcast's capital allocation 
strategy over the near term. The company maintains an appropriate balance 
between returning capital to shareholders, in the form of dividends and share 
repurchases, repaying debt, and investing in the strategic needs of its business
in Fitch's estimation. Cash returned to shareholders (dividends plus buybacks) 
totaled $4.6 billion or approximately 58% of cash flow before dividends during 
2012. Comcast has elected to pull back from $3 billion to $2 billion on share 
repurchases during 2013 to facilitate the GE redemption transaction. However 
Fitch expects the company's pre-dividend pay-out ratio will increase over the 
medium term. As of Dec. 31, 2012 approximately $3.5 billion of capacity remains 
under Comcast's share repurchase authorization.

Fitch believes Comcast's strong operating profile and solid free cash flow 
metrics afford the company a high degree of financial flexibility at the current
rating category. The company generated approximately $7.5 billion of 
consolidated free cash flow (defined as cash provided by operating activities 
less capital expenditures and dividends) during the latest-12-month (LTM) period
ended Dec. 31, 2012. Fitch anticipates that the company will consistently 
generate consolidated free cash flow in excess of $7 billion.

Comcast's liquidity position and overall financial flexibility are strong owing 
to Fitch's expectation that the company will continue to generate material 
amounts of free cash flow. Fitch acknowledges that Comcast's share repurchase 
program represents a significant use of cash; however, Fitch believes that the 
company would reduce the level of share repurchases should the operating 
environment materially change in order to maximize financial flexibility. The 
liquidity position is further supported by cash on hand (which totaled $11.0 
billion on a consolidated basis as of Dec. 31, 2012) and available borrowing 
capacity from Comcast's $6.25 billion revolver (of which approximately $5.8 
billion was available for borrowing). Comcast's revolver will expire during June

Comcast's debt maturity profile on a consolidated basis is well laddered and 
within Fitch's free cash flow (FCF) expectation for the company. Scheduled 
maturities during 2013 total approximately $2.4 billion followed by $2 billion 
during 2014 including approximately $900 million at NBCUniversal. 

Fitch's ratings incorporate Comcast's strong competitive position as one of the 
largest video, high speed internet and phone providers to residential and 
business customers in the United States and the company's compelling subscriber 
clustering profile with operations in 39 states and the District of Columbia. In
Fitch's view NBCUniversal's size, scale, leading brand positions and diversity 
of operations and business risk as one of the world's leading media and 
entertainment companies, lowers the business risk attributable to Comcast's 
credit profile and creates new avenues for revenue and cash flow growth while 
limiting the near-term impact on Comcast's balance sheet and credit profile. 

NBCUniversal's portfolio of leading cable networks is a key consideration 
supporting Fitch's ratings and a key strength of the company's credit profile. 
Fitch considers cable networks one of the strongest subsectors in the media and 
entertainment industry, providing NBCUniversal with a revenue base largely 
consisting of stable, recurring and high margin affiliate fee revenue generated 
from multichannel video programming distributors as well as a significant source
of NBCUniversal's free cash flow generation. Fitch acknowledges that increasing 
programming expense will weigh on cable network operating margins. 

Outside of a change to Comcast's financial strategy or event driven merger and 
acquisition activity, rating concerns center on Comcast's ability to adapt to 
the evolving operating environment while maintaining its relative competitive 
position given the challenging competitive environment and soft housing and 
employment trends. Considering the mature nature of video services and growing 
penetration of high speed data services, Comcast's ability to grow consumer 
revenues while maintaining operating margins remains a key rating consideration.

Within NBCUniversal, rating concerns center on the secular issues challenging 
NBCUniversal's Broadcast Television segment, including time-shifting 
technologies and internet based content, as well as the cyclicality of 
advertising revenues. Fitch believes that on a total company basis NBCUniversal 
generates less than half of its revenues from advertising - in line with its 
media peer group. The operating margins generated by NBCUniversal's Broadcast 
Television segment lag its peer group. The company believes that improved 
programming and scheduling can improve operating margins. While the Filmed 
Entertainment business has a level of volatility, Fitch believes there is 
sufficient capacity within NBCUniversal's current ratings to accommodate the 
'hit natured' fluctuation of the Filmed Entertainment segment operating profile.


--Positive rating action would likely coincide with Comcast achieving leverage 
below 2x on a sustained basis. 

--Comcast would need to demonstrate that its operating profile will not 
materially decline in the face of competition and less than robust housing and 
employment conditions. 

--Negative rating actions would likely coincide with discretionary actions of 
Comcast's management including, but not limited to, the company adopting a more 
aggressive financial strategy or an event driven merger and acquisition 
activity, that drive leverage beyond 2.75x in the absence of a credible 
de-leveraging plan. 

Fitch affirms the following ratings with a Positive Outlook:

Comcast Corporation

--IDR at 'BBB+'; 
--Senior unsecured Debt at 'BBB+';
--$6.25 billion revolving bank facility (co-borrower with Comcast Cable 
Communications LLC) at 'BBB+';
--Short-term IDR at 'F2';
--Commercial Paper at 'F2'.

Comcast Holdings Corporation
--IDR at 'BBB+';
--Subordinated Exchangeable Notes at 'BBB-'.

Comcast Cable Communications, LLC
--IDR at 'BBB+';
--Senior unsecured debt at 'BBB+';
--$6.25 billion revolving bank facility (co-borrower with Comcast) at 'BBB+'. 

Comcast Cable Holdings, LLC
--IDR at 'BBB+';
--Senior unsecured debt at 'BBB+'. 

Comcast MO Group, Inc.
--IDR at 'BBB+';
--Senior unsecured debt at 'BBB+'. 

Comcast MO of Delaware, LLC
--IDR at 'BBB+'.

Fitch upgrades the following ratings for NBCUniversal with a Positive Outlook:

NBC Universal Media, LLC
--IDR to 'BBB+' from 'BBB';
--Senior unsecured debt to 'BBB+' from 'BBB';
--Senior Unsecured Revolver to 'BBB+' from 'BBB'.
0 : 0
  • narrow-browser-and-phone
  • medium-browser-and-portrait-tablet
  • landscape-tablet
  • medium-wide-browser
  • wide-browser-and-larger
  • medium-browser-and-landscape-tablet
  • medium-wide-browser-and-larger
  • above-phone
  • portrait-tablet-and-above
  • above-portrait-tablet
  • landscape-tablet-and-above
  • landscape-tablet-and-medium-wide-browser
  • portrait-tablet-and-below
  • landscape-tablet-and-below