Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) executives still hope to have NBC Universal in their stockings for Christmas, despite what appears to be a rancorous discourse between those opposed to the acquisition and federal authorities charged with working out the details an applying a stamp of approval.
Compared to other acquisitions it's made (most notably the purchase of AT&T Broadband earlier this decade when the stock market was all over the place, money was tough to find and Enron was making corporations look even worse than they generally do), the MSO's proposed acquisition of NBC Universal "seems like everything we can see that's major is going our way," Comcast COO Steve Burke said this morning during a second quarter earnings conference call.
Most notably, Burke said, the improvement in the advertising market is the biggest feel-good factor that Comcast has made the right decision in pursuing the General Electric unit.
"We signed the deal last December and most companies that were advertising-based were going backwards. Eight months later, to be going up 15, 20, 25 percent is a big deal for a company that's going to have $10 billion worth of advertising," said Burke, who has been charged with handling the acquisition's daily details.
Comcast's second quarter earnings included a net profit of $884 million, which represented an 8.6 percent drop from the $967 million earned a year ago based on operating expenses and financing costs from the NBC Universal acquisition. Sales rose 6 percent to $9.52 billion; revenue climbed 5.1 percent to $8.9 billion and the MSO gained 3.4 percent more voice, video and data customers to stand at 47.8 million.
The biggest questions executives faced during the call, though, were less about the money and more about the future Comcast faces as it moves through regulatory approval for the acquisition and faces potential regulatory changes in the way it offers broadband services.
The regulatory process for the acquisition is "well under way," Chairman-CEO Brian Roberts reiterated and there is "constructive dialog" with the FCC and others on the potential for some form of broadband regulation.
"It seems like the extreme scenarios are off the table from our perspective," Roberts said. "We're hopeful that there's a constructive process under way to try to find regulatory solutions that can allow the businesses to go forward with some certainty, to be pro-investment and pro-innovation and at the same time establish some ground rules that everyone can find constructive. I'm still hopeful."
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