Cable operator Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA), which has been under significant market pressure, announced Q4 revenue of $8.01 billion, up 14 percent year-on-year from $7.03 billion. Net income of $602 million ($.20 per share) was up 54 percent from $390 million ($.13 per share). Separately, the company announced that it would start paying a dividend, which was one of the demands put forth by activist investor Chieftain Capital Management. Other investors had called for this as well, as the company has built a reputation of spending its cash loosely. Along the same lines, the company will aggressively step up its share buy back. These shareholder-placating moves come a day after it said in a filing that founder and adviser to the CEO, Ralph Roberts would have his salary reduced to $1 for the remainder of his tenure at the company. It also eliminated a lavish death benefit for Roberts. Investors are liking the results and the steps taken by management, as the stock is up over 5 percent pre-market. Some highlights: Lots more after the jump including Roberts’ comments about Yahoo…
— Video revenue of $4.4 billion was up 5.7 percent from the corresponding quarter the year before. While basic subscribes decline slightly to 24 million, digital subscribers grew to 15.2 million from 12.7 million. Video ARPU stood at $61.72, up from $58.19.
— Data revenue grew 14 percent to $1.66 billion, as total subscribers grew 15 percent to 13.22 million. High speed internet penetration is at 27.5 percent.
— For 2008, the company is calling for revenue growth of 8-10 percent and free cash flow growth of 20 percent. Last quarter, Comcast specifically cited the economy and competition when making its forecast, which it didn’t do this quarter.
Conference call: There wasn’t much news in the early part of the call, but Comcast CEO Brian Roberts did promise that the company would not be making any big, tranformative acquisitions, such as Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) or Sprint. Comcast hasn’t been talked about seriously as a Yahoo bidder, but given the company’s reputation for making big buys, Roberts obviously felt it was worth putting that to rest. Instead, the company says it will invest organically, in addition to returning more cash to shareholders. Overall, the call had a rather upbeat tone, a departure from some of the company’s previous public statements, and it’s making a point to be more transparent about its operations. As you can see from the slides above, Comcast will start to provide more detail about what it’s spending its money on, as it breaks down the various contributors to capex. All this, along with the dividend and the benefits reduction for Ralph Roberts suggests that investor pressure is seriously being felt by the company, even if it hasn’t been acknowledged specifically.
— Competition: Roberts: “Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is real… (but) even in FiOS areas, we’re still expanding our high-speed data.” The bad news for AT&T: “In terms of U-Verse, we’re seeing much less of a competitive effect.”
— Economy: Assumptions about economic weakness are taken into account in the company’s outlook for 2008. It did note that bad debt ticked down in Q4, perhaps as a result of more stringent credit checks.
— Wireless: Same story: there’s nothing new to report, as the company, along with the other MSO holders of AWS spectrum are trying to figure out what it can do with it. It might turn out that it does nothing.
Update: The company’s offensive seems to be paying off. Not only are Comcast shares trading up over 7 percent, but the head of Chieftain Capital Management Glenn Greenberg told Reuters he was “very happy” with the moves: “The important thing is they said the right things and focused on the right things to bring more value for shareholders.”