Hurricane Ivan and satellite providers DirecTV
Mediacom announced earnings Nov. 8, posting a loss of $0.11 per share compared with a $0.02-per-share gain in the year-earlier period. Consensus analyst estimates were for $0.01 per share.
Hurricane Ivan disrupted operations for the company during September in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi, and according to its 8-K, the company "experienced damage to cable plant, and other property and equipment, business interruption and loss of customers."
This force majeure reduced third-quarter revenue by $2.9 million, crediting subscribers for service interruptions, and around $1 million for contractors to repair infrastructure and extra help to address customer needs. Depreciation expense increased $2.1 million, and the company will have to pony up another $6 million in capital expenditures to replace what Ivan destroyed. These losses will be softened a bit by insurance, and the earnings announcement points out that while "the company is insured against certain losses related to the hurricane," it cannot currently "estimate the amounts that will be recoverable."
The company reckons that removing the effects of Ivan would result in a $0.05-per-share earnings adjustment. As a result of Ivan's mischief-making, along with negative subscriber trends, Mediacom reduced its 2004 guidance on revenue as well as closely watched metrics EBITDA and free cash flow.
Basic cable subscriber numbers are also under a dark cloud, down 30,000 from the sequential quarter (including a loss of 8,000 from Ivan) and 82,000 year to date. Churn is partially the result of competition from satellite providers DirecTV and EchoStar.
So, what does this mean for investors? The bad news first: DirecTV and EchoStar are expanding their reach in the Mediacom service area and will offer service to more than 90% of the Mediacom footprint by the end of the year. Compare that to 34% at this time last year. Now for the bright spot on the horizon: Chairman and CEO Rocco Commisso said that "this period was impacted by continued competitive pressures from satellite video providers resulting from the effects of market launches." The company goes on to say that churn is most dramatic following launch and will, over time, reduce 30% to 40% in "seasoned satellite local markets" from its peak.
So, is there a rainbow peeking through those clouds for Mediacom investors? Trading at around 71 times next year's consensus earnings estimate of $0.08, the 2004 consensus estimate of $0.07 makes earnings growth 14%, giving Mediacom a PEG of five. Coupled with eroding market share and an intensely competitive environment, I might wait until next hurricane season to take another look at shares.
But if you're itching to invest in cable or satellite, blow over to these takes:
- Comcast Paying for Cable Users
- Cablevision Captures Customers
- EchoStar Dishes Up Value
- The Fool Ratio
Fool contributor Chris Cather can be reached at ChrisCather2001@yahoo.com. He owns none of the companies mentioned and really hates the Hurricanes after his alma mater Virginia's loss to the University of Miami a few weeks ago.