Comcast Exec Denies Sprint Buyout Plans

Includes: CMCSA, S
by: Eric Savitz

There are some interesting tidbits in a Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) research note today by UBS analyst Aryeh Bourkoff which sheds some new light on the company’s wireless strategy. The bottom line: They’re not likely to buy a carrier for now, and they aren’t going to shell out big bucks to build out a wireless network of their own. Both points should please shareholders.

  • According to Bourkoff, Comcast Treasurer and Co-CFO John Alchin says the company does not have plans to acquire either Sprint (NYSE:S) or RCN (RCNI).
  • Alchin also said that Comcast does not have firm plans for the wireless spectrum it recently bought at auction from the FCC, and that the the primary goals of the purchase were to maintain strategic flexibility and optionality while maintaining the consortium that bought the spectrum - Comcast, Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), Cox, Sprint and Bright House.
  • Comcast has begun trialing a wireless add-on service, charging $33 for 200 minutes of talk time, free nights/weekends, free long distance, 300 text messages and an ability to forward calls between a Comcast VOIP phone and their wireless phone. Bourkoff says the company is also offering a $15-$25 a la carte data and entertainment package “which allows customers to access more of Comcast’s content over a wireless device.”
  • Comcast does not view wireless as a fourth major leg of its bundle, along with video, voice and data. “We believe the wireless product offering is likely to be an evolutionary process rather than a revolutionary
    one, and not a necessary strategy to sustain double-digit growth,” Bourkoff says. “Rather, management believes the small-medium enterprise (SME) market will likely serve as the next company growth driver, representing an estimated $20 billion market opportunity within Comcast’s footprint.
  • Comcast expects to spend $200 - $300 million in capex during 2007 preparing to access the SME market.
  • Bourkoff thinks the company can boostits annual EBITDA per subscriber to levels similar to those being produced by Cablevision (NYSE:CVC). He notes that Cablevision is generated $511 per subscriber, versus $435 for Comcast - but he also notes that Comcast’s North Central division - which includes Boston - the total is $511 per sub, on part with Cablevision.

Now if they can just do something about that irritating DVR.

Comcast today is up 40 cents at $40.69.