Comcast Buying GE's NBCU Stake for $16.7B
Cable giant also uses cash to boost dividend
By Jon Lafayette -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/12/2013 5:00:13 PM
Comcast had been scheduled to buy the NBCU stake from GE on July 14. The company said the accelerated purchase "solidifies Comcast's position as a leading media and technology company."
It also plans to boost its dividend in the first quarter by 20% to 78 cents a share and buy back $2 billion of its share in 2013, moves designed to curry favor on Wall Street.
"Our decision to acquire GE's ownership is driven by our sense of optimism for the future prospects of NBCUniversal and our desire to capture future value that we hope to create for our shareholders," Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO, Comcast Corp., said in a statement. "We believe the terms of the transaction are attractive and have planned for this event by taking a number of financial steps to prepare our balance sheet. We believe we are in a strong and unique position to continue to grow and build value in our combined company."
Comcast's early purchase of the balance of NBCU will not require any further government review since the FCC has already approved Comcast as owner of NBCU and the deal involves no further change of control.
When DOJ found no antitrust issues and the FCC approved the deal on public interest grounds -- with various conditions -- both did so on the expectation that Comcast would ultimately own all of the company.
"We evaluate this transaction as if Comcast will obtain all the profits generated by any exclusionary strategy by Comcast-NBCUniversal because Comcast is acquiring the right to acquire sole ownership from GE and may exercise that right without further Commission approval," the FCC said at the time. DOJ's impact statement said it did so "expect[ing] Comcast ultimately will own 100 percent of the [joint venture]."
Comcast said fourth quarter earnings per share rose 18% to $1.5 billion, or 56 cents a share, from $1.3 billion, or 47 cents a share, a year ago. Adjusting for a favorable tax adjustment, earnings per share rose 10.6%.
Revenue rose 5.9% to $15.9 billion.
In the fourth quarter, NBCU's cash flow rose 11.4% to $1.2 billion, driven by strong results at broadcast television, the company said.
Cash flow at NBC's cable networks was down 3.5% to $890 million as revenues rose 0.6% to $2.2 billion. Programming and production costs were up as the company invested in original programming.
Distribution revenue was up 2.5% and negatively impacted by the NHL lockout. Advertising revenues were down 1.5%, reflecting lower ratings, but higher pricing.
For the broadcast television division, cash flow was $95 million, compared to a negative $80 million a year ago. Broadcast TV revenues were $1.8 billion, up 7.9%. Programming and production costs were down slightly while higher ratings at NBC and an increase in political advertising at the local stations boosted revenue.
At Comcast Cable Communications unit, cash flow rose 6.7% to $4.2 billion. Revenues rose 7% to $10.1 billion.
The company said the increases were driven by growth in the high speed Internet business, business service and video.
Advertising revenue was up 19.4% due to higher political spending.
Additional reporting by John Eggerton.
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