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Mixed signals

Comcast revs up but sees wider quarter loss

Comcast Corp. met investor expectations Thursday with its report that, while revenues rose 11.6% in the second quarter to $1.3 billion, its net loss widened 143% to $92 million.

Of more interest to investors was operating cash flow (a key measure that adds interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and nonrecurring items to net results), which increased 9.6% in the quarter to total $402.5 million.

Securing the No. 3 spot

The results followed by a day Comcast’s securing the No. 3 spot among the country’s largest cablers, behind Tele-Communications and Time Warner, by gaining control of Jones Intercable through the exercise of an option from Jones’ founder and CEO.

The Philadelphia-based company saw cash flow rise 10.2% at its core cable business as revenues gained 7.1% to $568.3 million.

Mark Todtfeld, a media analyst at NationsBanc Montgomery Securities, called the cable performance “respectable, especially for a seasonally slow quarter.”

New products gain

In further commenting on the cable division, the analyst said he was particularly impressed by the ability of Comcast’s new products, which are rapidly being rolled out, to “gain traction.”

Comcast@Home, the company’s high-speed Internet access service, is picking up customers at the rate of 800 a week, for example, while digital cable offerings have been adding as many as 1,500 new customers a week.

Meanwhile, Todtfeld deemed the performance of Comcast’s electronic retailing division, anchored by QVC, “exceptional.”

The division’s operating cash flow advanced 22.8% to $92.7 million as revenues ratcheted up 13.3% to $530 million.

Momentum in U.K.

The results include steady domestic growth with, Todtfeld said, “noticeable momentum in the U.K.” He added that the division was already receiving meaningful contributions from IQVC, the electronic retailer’s online extension, which tripled its sales since the year-earlier period.

In addition to QVC, Comcast provides content through its majority-owned subsidiaries E! Entertainment Television, Comcast-Spectacor and Comcast SportsNet, and through other investments, including The Golf Channel, Speedvision and Outdoor Life.

Meanwhile, Comcast’s cellular division turned in a flat performance, generating $49.2 million in cash flow on revenues of $115.9 million, while its equity in the losses of affiliates dragged net results down $107.3 million in the quarter, compared with $61.1 million in the year-earlier period.

Accounting for a disproportionate share of those losses was Comcast’s stake in Sprint PCS. The cabler’s share of roll-out losses for Sprint’s personal communications services totaled $75.5 million.

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