First, the company earned $560 million, or $0.18 per share, compared with $1.22 billion, or $0.38, last year. But last year's third quarter included one-time gains totaling $669 million from acquiring Adelphia's cable assets and systems transactions from Time Warner Cable
Adjust for special items, and you have that same EPS of $0.18 this quarter. Still, that's 6% higher than last year's EPS of $0.17. So this wasn't the best of quarters, and it did show some signs of slowing subscriber additions, but it also wasn't the worst quarter in the company's history.
Revenue-generating units (RGU) fell 7% to 1.4 million, marking the first year-over-year drop in over three years. Digital cable subscriber growth slipped by 12.5% year over year, and Internet customers were also down 16%. However, that was offset by a strong increase of 36% in digital phone subscribers.
As long has been the case with cable, some observers and even analysts tend to obsess about competitive threats. Some are now convinced, in fact, that the company and its cable peers are about to be eaten alive by the likes of phone companies Verizon
I'm inclined, however, to concur with those who note that the overlap with the telcos remains minimal and that satellite can't compete effectively with cable's triple play or its video on demand offerings. Rather, I believe that the real culprits are housing's woes and a generally softening U.S. economy. After all, in times of slowdown, consumers tend to cut where they can.
The company still has a strong business, serving more than 40 million households. But given the economic trends, I believe it might be a good idea to back off on the cable stocks for a while.
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