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Big User Gains at Comcast

The cable giant blows away first-quarter estimates.
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(CMCSA) - Get Comcast Corporation Class A Common Stock Report

beat first-quarter targets Thursday as the company posted what it called its best-ever quarter in subscription gains.

The Philadelphia-based cable company made $466 million, or 22 cents a share, for the quarter ended March 31, up from the year-ago $143 million, or 6 cents a share. Revenue rose to $5.9 billion from $5.36 billion a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for a 14-cents-a-share profit on sales of $5.83 billion.

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Comcast said it added 965,000 so-called revenue-generating units in the first quarter across its video, high-speed Internet and phone businesses, its best quarter ever on that count. Comcast said it also added more basic cable users than in the first quarter for each of the last three years.

Comcast added 340,000 new digital cable subscribers and 47,000 basic users. Video revenue rose 6% from a year ago to $3.6 billion. Comcast Cable ended the quarter with 10.1 million digital cable subscribers, a 47% penetration rate of its 21.5 million basic cable subscribers.

High-speed Internet revenue rose 22% from a year ago to $1.1 billion as users rose 21% and average revenue per user was flat at $43.14. The company added 211,000 Comcast Digital Voice users, and phone revenue rose 9% from a year ago to $191 million.

Free cash flow surged 136% to $775 million, due primarily to growth in consolidated operating cash flow and changes in working capital. The conversion rate of operating cash flow into free cash flow increased to 35% in the first quarter of 2006 from 16% in the first quarter of last year.

Comcast said it expects to post 9%-10% revenue growth and 10%-11% operating cash flow growth for the year.