Many were surprised when the FCC granted approval of Comcast Corp.‘s (NasdaqGS: CMCSA) purchase of 51% NBC Universal with few conditions in January 2011.
The deal gave the nation’s largest cable operator control over the fourth-biggest TV network, along with a huge number of other assets, including specialty TV channels, websites and the Universal film studio. Comcast’s move stoked fears that the U.S. media landscape was becoming consolidated in too few hands.
There was also concern that NBC Universal wouldn’t be a good fit with the corporate culture at Comcast Corp.
But Utility Forecaster editor Roger Conrad saw things differently. In a January 21, 2011, article entitled “FCC Makes Comcast’s Universe,” he wrote:
“The real impact of Comcast’s takeover of NBC will only be felt in the second half of 2011 and beyond. But make no mistake. This is a good deal for the company, and puts it in prime position to continue leveraging its network for big cash flows.”
His words rang true yesterday, when popular new movies and a strong performance at the TV business helped propel Comcast Corp. to better-than-expected results.
Super Bowl’s Return Was a Boon to Comcast Corp.
In the first three months of 2012, Comcast Corp. earned $1.22 billion, or $0.45 a share, up 32.4% from $943 million, $0.34 a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 22.7%, to $14.88 billion from $12.13 billion.
Both figures beat the Street’s estimates. Analysts were expecting $0.42 a share in profits on revenue of $14.43 billion.
Revenue from NBC Universal rose 18.0%, helped by a 36.9% jump in revenue at the TV business. That was largely due to the Super Bowl, which was broadcast on Fox last year. But even if you strip the Super Bowl out, revenue still rose 12.4%.
That’s a big improvement for the network, which has struggled compared to its rivals. And the gains should continue into late 2012, as NBC attracts more advertising dollars thanks to its role as the exclusive U.S. broadcaster of the London Summer Olympics.
Results also improved at the company’s core operations: business services revenue jumped 37%, and sales rose 10.3% at the broadband division.
Comcast’s cash reserves rose to $2.2 billion at the end of the quarter from $1.6 billion a year ago. Debt fell slightly, to $37.8 billion from $39.3 billion.
The Lorax Was a Big Hit for Comcast Corp.
The other eye-catching number from NBC Universal was a 22.3% revenue gain at the film studio business.
Benzinga.com’s Brent Callwood attributed much of that to the success of the children’s film The Lorax, which was based on the 1971 book by Dr. Seuss. Callwood wrote:
“The Lorax cost a whopping $70 million to make, and it broke even (almost exactly) during the opening weekend. Since then it has gone on to make $208,479,900 domestically, and $87,700,000 with foreign markets. That’s nearly $220 million of profit already.”
Comcast Corp. is also set to launch a number of other films with strong potential this year, including much-publicized Battleship and another instalment of the popular Bourne series.
Diversified Business Helps Comcast Corp. Navigate a Tough Economy
The company’s broadband business is facing stiff competition from phone companies like Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T). However, it is benefiting from its recent network upgrades. Its cable network also lets it offer faster service than many phone providers, especially those that are still using older copper wire networks.
In addition, as Louis Navellier of InvestorPlace pointed out, Comcast’s strong presence in the phone, cable and Internet businesses lets it offer consumers its popular “Triple Play” package, which gives consumers a discount if they buy all three services from Comcast.
Dividend Keeps Rising
Comcast is also a regular buyer of its own stock: during the quarter, it bought back 25.9 million of its shares for $750 million. As of March 31, 2012, it had $5.8 billion left on its current authorization.
The company also started paying dividends in 2008, and has raised its payout every year since. It currently pays $0.1625 a share on a quarterly basis, for a yearly rate of $0.65. That gives the shares a 2.15% yield.
Article originally posted here.