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Why 'Comcast' Spells 'Monopoly'

This also came through the NBCUniversal acquisition. Universal owns two theme parks, one in California and one in Florida, and Comcast is now investing heavily in expansion, including building the hotels needed to house guests.

The aim in this case is not to own the space, but to gain the same level of profitability Disney has by controlling licensed merchandise from its creation to its final consumption. The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that Comcast's budget for the parks has increased fivefold since they were acquired.

For investors, all this should mean outstanding profitability. Comcast has generated more than $14 billion in annual operating cash flow for three years now, and that could be ready to accelerate. It has been steadily increasing revenue while maintaining margins in the range of 20%. Despite its huge investments, its debt-to-asset ratio remains less than 25%.

AT&T's debt-to-assets ratio is higher, and it lacks top line growth. Fox has less than half Comcast's revenue and lower margins. Disney's cash from operations is just two-thirds that of Comcast's.

AT&T, of course, has been around since the 19th century and won its monopoly status in telephony early in the 20th century. Rupert Murdoch has been building his media empire since the early 1950s. Comcast's history in its current form, under CEO Brian Roberts, dates to just 1990.

Had you put $1 into Disney stock back in 1978, you would now have more than $10,000, which is impressive. But if you had put $1 into Comcast stock, the small cable operator then run by Roberts' father Ralph Roberts, in 1978, you would now have more than $120,000.

Comcast hasn't invented anything. Its innovations have been copies of what other companies were already doing. But it has been a stellar investment, and looks set to remain one.

At the time of publication the author owned no shares in companies mentioned in this story.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

 

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