Comcast reports mixed Q4

Cable giant raises dividend

NEW YORK -- Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable operator, reported a lower fourth-quarter profit due to a charge Wednesday and said it lost 233,000 basic cable subscribers in the period as subscriber momentum slowed.

However, it boosted its dividend.

Before the market open, Comcast posted a fourth-quarter profit of $412 million, down 32% from the year-ago period thanks in part to a $378 million after-tax asset impairment charge on its investment in wireless high-speed Internet provider Clearwire. Profit excluding the charge rose 31% to $790 million on an adjusted basis.

Quarterly revenue rose 9% to $8.8 billion, and operating cash flow increased 9% to $3.4 billion.

The company added 247,000 digital cable subscribers in the latest quarter, down from 530,000 in the year-ago period, and 184,000 broadband users, down from 341,000.

“Despite a very difficult economic environment, we met or exceeded all of our financial targets (for 2008), demonstrating the strength of our subscription businesses," Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said. "For 2009, our goal is to continue to deliver growth even in this challenging environment."

The company didn't provide specific growth targets.

Signaling confidence in its free cash flow generation though, Comcast said it expects to raise its quarterly dividend 8% to a total of about 27 cents per share annually. During 2008, Comcast paid three cash dividends totaling $547 million.