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Comcast quarterly profits rise 22%

Cabler sees signs economy is stabilizing

PHILADELPHIA — Comcast Corp. reported a 22% increase in third-quarter earnings Wednesday after stepping up promotions on its bundled video, phone and Internet plans.

The nation’s largest cable TV operator also said it sees signs the economy is stabilizing.

But investors are more anxious to find out how the purchase of a 51% stake in NBC Universal would burden Comcast’s finances. A deal between Comcast and General Electric Co., which owns 80% of NBC Universal, could be announced soon. Comcast is expected to pony up cash and its cable networks and help shoulder NBC Universal’s debt in a $30 billion deal that would transform Comcast into one of the world’s most powerful media companies.

In the third quarter, Comcast earned $944 million, or 33 cents per share, compared with $771 million, or 26 cents, in the same quarter a year earlier.

Revenue was up 3% to $8.8 billion, slightly shy of the $8.85 billion analysts were forecasting, according to Thomson Reuters.

Free cash flow, an important measure of liquidity for the typically debt-laden cable TV industry, was up 20% to $1.1 billion.

Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia, said it focused more aggressively on marketing its bundles of Internet, TV and phone services in the quarter and added 1.1 million lines of service, slightly below its total in the same period last year. Lines of service encompass all orders of Internet, cable TV and phone services; a household can have multiple lines of service.

Video customers paid, on average, $66.84 a month — up 3% from last year.

Comcast’s video revenue rose slightly to $4.78 billion. Phone revenue rose 20% to $829 million while Internet revenue increased by 6% to $1.93 billion.

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