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NEW YORK (
Comcast(CMCSA - Get Report) hit a 52-week high today after analyst Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research upgraded the cable company to a buy rating and raised his target price to $26 from $20.
Comcast spiked more than 4% to a new year-high of $22.22 in morning trading today and is currently trading around $22.15.
Moffett upgraded Comcast in anticipation of the company's acquisition of
General Electric's(GE - Get Report) NBC Universal, which he expects to be finalized in 2011.
"With deal closure imminent for 2011, we believe it is time for investors to start thinking of Comcast as the combined Comcast-NBCU entity," Moffett said in his Dec. 14 research report. "On that basis it is attractive on valuation."
While the regulatory conditions of the merger will likely make NBCU "less valuable" within Comcast, Moffett expects the risks to have a minor impact on the entire company as the content business will only comprise about 9% of its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.
After the deal is complete, Moffett says that "Comcast's capital allocation plans should be far more transparent." He expects the company to return cash to stockholders by aggressively repurchasing shares.
Moffett says that Comcast has predictably lagged in the cable sector on fears that the merger might "translate into dead money" and uncertainty about how long this "regulatory limbo" will last.
While cable contenders
Cablevision(CVC - Get Report) and
Time Warner Cable(TWC - Get Report) are up 34% and 56.2% over the past year respectively, Moffett believes that Comcast will catch up in 2011 after the merger is complete.
--Written by Theresa McCabe in Boston.