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Jan. 28, 2021, 3:42 p.m. EST

Comcast beats on earnings, says buybacks could resume later this year

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By Emily Bary

Comcast Corp. shares are up more than 7% in Thursday trading after the company easily topped expectations with its fourth-quarter results and predicted that it could begin share buybacks again toward the end of the year.

The company reported net income of $3.38 billion, or 73 cents a share, up from $3.16 billion, or 68 cents a share, a year prior. On an adjusted basis, Comcast /zigman2/quotes/209472081/composite CMCSA +2.15% earned 56 cents a share, below the 79 cents a share it reported a year earlier but above the FactSet consensus, which called for 48 cents a share.

Comcast saw revenue for the fourth quarter slip to $27.71 billion from $28.4 billion, while analysts were expecting $26.79 billion.

The cable business generated $15.71 billion in revenue, up from $14.77 billion a year prior. Analysts were modeling $15.37 billion. Comcast saw total customer relationships for the cable business increase by 455,000, which the company said was its best fourth-quarter result on record. The number of high-speed internet customers grew by 538,000, another fourth-quarter record for Comcast.

“Comcast’s blowout fourth quarter broadband growth put an exclamationpoint on what was already a year for the record books,” MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett wrote, though he said that “ everyone  expects broadband growth to be more, well, normal than 2020.”

Chief Executive Brian Roberts noted on Comcast’s earnings call that the pandemic has meant operational changes for the cable business, including the decision to have all customer-care representatives work from home. The move “has gone so well that we’re leaning towards embracing this model permanently.”

Comcast’s NBCUniversal segment posted revenue of $7.5 billion, down from $9.15 billion, while analysts were looking for $7.19 billion. The unit was weighed down by the theme park business, which saw revenue slip to $579 million from $1.56 billion, though Roberts said in the earnings release that Comcast “reached breakeven” on its Orlando and Osaka theme parks.

“What we saw this fourth quarter, especially in Orlando, gives us even more conviction in the momentum that our theme parks will experience when we reach a sustainable recovery,” Roberts said on the call.

The company disclosed that its Peacock service has seen 33 million sign-ups in the U.S. to date. That’s up from the nearly 22 million sign-ups that Peacock reported in its last quarterly release in late October. Peacock gained the exclusive streaming rights to “The Office” at the start of January, helping bring in “incremental users” who are then staying around to watch other programming, according to Roberts.

Revenue for Comcast’s Sky pay-TV business grew to $5.21 billion from $5.04 billion. Analysts were expecting $4.97 billion. The unit “returned to customer growth in all three of its markets,” Roberts said in the release.

The company raised its dividend by 8 cents a share, or 9% on a year-over-year basis, to $1.00 a share on an annualized basis for 2021. “In addition, it is now our expectation that we will be in a position to begin repurchasing shares again in the back half of this year,” Roberts said.

Shares of Comcast have gained 23% over the past three months as the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +1.95% has risen 16%.

/zigman2/quotes/209472081/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 55.09
+1.16 +2.15%
Volume: 22.05M
March 5, 2021 4:00p
P/E Ratio
24.19
Dividend Yield
1.82%
Market Cap
$247.03 billion
Rev. per Employee
$616,452
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/zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime
US : S&P US
3,841.94
+73.47 +1.95%
Volume: 3.33B
March 5, 2021 5:44p
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