Comcast Boosts Dividend, Stock Buybacks As Q4 Earnings Top Expectations

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Comcast has some goodies for investors in its Q4 earnings announcement this morning: The No. 1 cable company has raised its stock repurchase authorization to $12 billion, raised dividends by 15%, and plans a 2-for-1 stock split, which could increase demand for shares by making them more affordable.

That comes on top of financial results for the last three months of 2016 that generally beat expectations.

Comcast reported net earnings of $2.30 billion, up 16.5% vs the period last year, on revenues of $21.03 billion, up 9.3%. Analysts expected $20.68 billion from the top line. Adjusted earnings at 89 cents a share beat expectations for 87 cents.

Shares are up more than 3% in pre-market trading.

NBCUniversal “had a terrific year, fueled by the tremendous success of the Olympics, the opening of new attractions at our theme parks, and strong theatrical performances, particularly in animation,” CEO Brian Roberts says.  “As we begin 2017, we are well positioned to continue driving growth and shareholder value as we embark on the opportunities ahead.”

Overall, NBCU generated $1.77 billion in operating cash flow, up 7.8% after adjusting for the acquisition of 51% of Universal Studios, Japan midway through last year’s quarter, on revenues of $8.45 billion, up 10.5%.

Cable Networks benefited from rate increases and content licensing, which offset a drop in subscribers and ratings. The unit generated $916 million in operating cash flow, up 2.4%, on revenues of $2.50 billion, up 4.0%.

The networks’ increases in fees they charge cable and satellite companies lifted distribution revenues by 4.7%. Ad sales were just up 0.6% which the company says is “due to higher rates, mostly offset by audience declines.”

The NBC broadcast unit was helped by political ads and the addition of Thursday Night Football. Cash flow improved 21.1% to $264 million with revenues up 14.0% to $2.85 billion.

Ad sales increased 12.4%, while retransmission consent and other fees were up 14.1%.

The Universal Studios Filmed Entertainment operation told a mixed story — with strong results in theatrical, but not in home entertainment — in its first full quarter with DreamWorks Animation.  Operating cash flow fell 15.3% to $121 million with revenues (including DWA) up 12.6% to $1.83 billion.

With Sing, theatrical revenues belted out a 96.7% revenue increase. But Universal’s home entertainment offerings were down 36.0% as it couldn’t match 2015’s Jurassic World, Minons and Trainwreck.

The Theme Parks operation looked solid with the opening of Skull Island: Reign of Kong in Orlando and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and The Walking Dead in Hollywood. Operating cash flow improved 18.4% to $640 million with revenues up 13.2% to $1.34 billion.

At Comcast’s real money maker — cable operations — the company added 80,000 video customers, bringing its total to 22.5 million. It also gained 385,000 broadband customers, for a total of 24.7 million.

The operation had $5.19 billion in operating cash flow, up 6.4%, on revenues of $12.84 billion, up 7.1%.

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