Mixed Quarter for Mediacom

First-quarter cash flow is solid, but some subscriber numbers come up short.
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Mediacom Communications

(MCCC)

met financial expectations Friday but came up short in some subscriber numbers.

The cable TV operator, which focuses on smaller cities and towns, is facing continuing competition from satellite TV operators over features such as packages of local broadcast channels.

For the first quarter ended March 31, Mediacom reported a net loss of $5.7 million, or 5 cents a share, matching the consensus estimate from Thomson First Call. The company had reported a net loss of $33.4 million, or 28 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2003.

The more closely watched figure for operating income before depreciation and amortization, also known as EBITDA, grew 7.3% to $104.3 million, edging past the First Call number of $103.4 million. Revenue was up 8.5% to $263.4 million, beating the consensus figure of $261 million.

Free cash flow -- OIBDA after net interest expenses, cash taxes and capital expenditures are subtracted out -- amounted to $17.2 million, compared to negative FCF of $21.6 million in the first quarter of 2003.

Mediacom, which has 1.5 million subscribers to basic video service, lost 10,000 subscribers in the first quarter. More alarming, to some analysts, the company's digital video service lost 11,000 subscribers in the quarter. That operation is one of the advanced services that Mediacom and other companies are relying on to offset the stagnant basic video business. The company added 22,000 high-speed data customers in the quarter.

"Our solid performance in the first quarter puts us on target to reach our financial guidance for the full year," Mediacom CEO Rocco Commisso said in a statement. "We generated free cash flow per share of $0.14 compared to negative free cash flow per share of $0.18 in the year-ago period.

"We achieved these results despite an increasingly competitive environment, which caused a decline in video customers during the quarter," Commisso said. "On the other hand, our emphasis on profitable customer relationships allowed the company to grow video revenues both sequentially and year over year."

On Friday morning, Mediacom's stock was trading at $6.96, down a nickel.