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Updated from 9:29 a.m. EST


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beat fourth-quarter targets despite a steep drop in subscriber growth.

The No. 1 cable TV provider posted earnings excluding one-time items of 27 cents a share, up from 20 cents in the year-ago period and well above the 22 cent adjusted profit analysts had expected, according to a First Call tally.

Sales for the fourth quarter ended in December were $8.77 billion, up 9% over the $8.2 billion a year ago, and more than the $8.6 billion analysts had been looking for. The Philadelphia cable giant saw subscriber growth slow to 290,000 total net new customers, less than 50% of the 714,000 users added in the third quarter.

Through cost cuts and lower network spending, Comcast managed to generate operating cash flow of $3.4 billion, up 7% from the year-ago period.

"Despite a very difficult economic environment, we met or exceeded all of our financial targets, demonstrating the strength of our subscription businesses, CEO Brian Roberts said in a press release Wednesday.

Looking ahead, Comcast says it will cut its capital spending budget this year below the $5.7 billion outlay the company had in 2008. This spending cut is not good news for cable networking suppliers like


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Comcast raised its dividend payment 8% to 27 cents a share on an annual basis. And during the fourth quarter, Comcast took a $600 million impairment charge related to its $1 billion investment in



, a wireless broadband venture.

Comcast says it has not seen a big impact from cash-squeezed customers shifting to lower-priced offerings or cancelling services. The company competes heavily against phone companies


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as well as satellite players





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Dish Network.

For the full year, Comcast posted adjusted earnings of 91 cents a share, up from 74 cents in 2007 and better than the 89 cents analysts were expecting. Total sales in 2008 were $34.2 billion, up 11% from $30.9 billion in 2007.

Comcast shares were falling 57 cents, or 4.4%, to $12.32 in afternoon trading Wednesday.