Time Warner Cable Subs Gains Lift Profit

(Time Warner Cable earnings piece updated with management's guidance from the company's investor conference call and analyst commentary.)

NEW YORK, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Time Warner Cable ( TWC) saw its full-year 2010 earnings gain 22.2%, driven by significant growth in its subscriber base.

The company added 344,000 primary service units in the full fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2010, lifting earnings to $1.31 billion, or $3.64 a share, compared with earnings of $1.07 billion, or $3.05 a share, in the same period a year ago.

Management had expected full-year earnings to come in above $3.50 a share, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Robert Marcus said on the company's third-quarter conference call.

Revenue rose 5.6% to $18.87 billion from $17.87 billion as subscription revenue grew 4.8% to $17.99 billion from $17.17 billion, with residential subscription revenue increasing 3.9% and commercial subscription revenue growing 21.1%. Advertising revenue increased 25.5% to $881 million from $702 billion.

For the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2010, the company saw earnings rise 21.7% to $392 million, or $1.09 a diluted share, from earnings of $322 million, or 91 cents a diluted share, in the same period a year ago. Earnings came in ahead of analyst estimates of $1 a share.

Revenue rose 5.9% to $4.8 billion from $4.53 billion as the company added 25,000 primary service units, driving subscription revenue up 4.6%.

In the fourth quarter, the company added 94,000 net high-speed data subscribers and 72,000 digital phone subscribers. These additions more than offset the loss of 141,000 video subscribers.

Subscription revenue grew 4.6% to $4.53 billion from $4.33 billion, driven by a 3.5% increase in residential subscription revenue and a 23% gain in commercial subscription revenue. Advertising revenue was up 33.8% to $269 million from $201 million.

Management expects to see double digit percentage growth in free cash flow in 2011. The company also projects its 2011 full-year earnings will come in between $4.25 and $4.50 a share.

The company separately announced that it has raised its regular quarterly dividend by 20% to 48 cents per quarter, or $1.92 per share on an annualized basis.

The dividend will be paid on March 15 to stockholders of record on Feb. 28. Time Warner Cable repurchased 8 million shares during the fourth quarter for a total of $515 million.

While management would not confirm the completion of a $4 billion buyback in 2011, analyst Marci Ryvicker with Wells Fargo Securities believes that the completion will take place this year.

Ryvicker maintained her buy rating on the cable stock as well as her price target range of $77 to $80. She projects that the company's strong 2011 guidance, as well as subscriber base growth, will continue to drive the stock, she explained in a Jan. 27 note to investors.

Time Warner Cable stock spiked to a 52-week high share price of $72.41 in morning trading, and is currently up about 1.9% to $69.37.

--Written by Theresa McCabe in Boston.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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