Investors will find encouraging and discouraging numbers in the latest earnings report. But they’re really waiting for a conference call with execs this morning where they’ll be listening for any signal that Comcast doubts that federal officials will approve its acquisition of Time Warner Cable. In a statement with the earnings release, CEO Brian Roberts says that he still looks forward to approval. The boost in the dividend to $1 a share each year, plus the increase in the share repurchase plan to $10 billion — including $4.25 billion in 2015 — underscore “our confidence in the continued success of our company,” he said.
For now, the cable and media giant says that it generated $1.93 billion in net income in Q4, up 0.6% from the last three months in 2013, on revenues of $17.73 billion, +4.8%. Analysts expected revenues to come in at $17.70 billion. Adjusted earnings at 77 cents a share were a penny lower than the consensus prediction of 78 cents a share. The stock price is down 1.7% in pre-market trading.
At NBCUniversal, the theme parks helped to drive a 2.3% increase in revenues to $6.62 billion with cash flow up 6.6% to $1.43 billion. The main cable networks operation struggled with a 5.6% drop in advertising and increasing programming costs, which more than offset the growth in affiliate fees from cable and satellite companies. All told, cable revenues were up just 0.1% to $2.33 billion while cash flow fell 1.8% to $912 million.
The broadcast TV operation fared better, likely helped by local political ad sales. Sales improved 4.8% to $2.34 billion with cash flow up 64% to $230 million. Comcast says ad sales were up 3.1% while the unit saw a boost in retransmission consent revenues.
Theme parks appeared to smash through expectations with sales up 29.9% to $735 million and cash flow up 37.6% to $352 million. The additional expenses for attractions including Orlando’s The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley and Halloween Horror Nights paid off with increases in attendance and spending per person.
Universal Studios didn’t fare as well vs the year-end period in 2013 which included home video sales for Despicable Me 2. Revenues fell 10.6% to $1.30 billion with cash flow down 59.6% to $77 million. NBCU says it saw lower revenue both from theaters and home video sales.
At Comcast’s primary business — cable and broadband services — the company says it ended the year with 22.4 million video customers, down 194,000 vs the end of 2013, but up 6,000 from the end of September. But broadband’s becoming far more important, and there it had nearly 22 million broadband customers, an increase of 1.28 million for the year and up 375,000 for the quarter. The cable unit generated $11.3 billion in revenue, up 6.1%, with cash flow up 6.3% to $4.68 billion.