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Comcast profit up

But spending plan dents stock price

NEW YORK — Profits tripled last quarter for giant cabler Comcast, but it also spooked Wall Street with ambitious spending plans for this year.

The Philadelphia company said it had earmarked $5.7 billion for capital expenditure, mostly to speed the rollout of new services such as high-definition video and to ramp up its pursuit of small and medium-sized companies as customers.

That news knocked Comcast shares down 3.7% in early trading, despite a surge in fourth-quarter profit to $390 million from $133 million the year before.

Revenue jumped 30% to just over $7 billion.

The increased spending means free cash flow will be flat for 2007, after a 30% spike in 2006. The company expects revenue for the full year to grow at least 11%.

Comcast stock has been flying for the past year as investors embraced the industry’s triple play of video, high-speed Internet and telephone service. It’s what’s put them ahead — at least for now — of satellite and telephone companies in the battle to wire consumers’ homes.

Comcast reported its strongest growth in basic-video subscribers in 10 years during the three months ended Dec. 31, adding 110,000 new subs. The company signed up 613,000 digital video subs, 508,000 digital phone customers and 488,000 high-speed Internet subscribers.

Comcast also said it approved a three-for-two stock split in the form of a 50% stock dividend payable Feb. 21.

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