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Comcast profit rises 17 percent in 1Q

NEW YORK — Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest cable company and owner of NBCUniversal, on Wednesday said its net income rose 17 percent in the latest quarter, powered by continued strong results from its cable operations.

Price increases on cable TV and customers upgrading to high-definition packages and digital video recorders helped boost numbers. Subscribers paid an average of $3.40 more per month for TV compared with the same period last year.

Comcast also continued to recruit new broadband and phone customers at a brisk pace, and broke above 10 million phone customers for the first time in the quarter. It’s the country’s fourth-largest home phone company, behind AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink.

The Philadelphia-based company’s shares rose 86 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $42.17 in midday trading. At the open, they hit $42.47, near the all-time high of $42.61, hit a month ago.

Comcast earned $1.44 billion, or 54 cents per share, in the first quarter. That was up from $1.22 billion, or 45 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

Excluding a gain of 3 cents per share due to the sale of some airwaves licenses to AT&T, earnings were 51 cents per share. That was a penny higher than the average forecast of analysts polled by FactSet.

Revenue rose 2.9 percent to $15.31 billion. Analysts were expecting half a percent more, at $15.38 billion.

Comcast’s revenue didn’t grow as fast as usual because it broadcast the Super Bowl last year, but didn’t this year. Excluding that effect, revenue would have grown 4.7 percent, it said.

Comcast lost 60,000 cable-TV subscribers, breaking a trend of slowing losses. However, it’s still better than smaller cable companies at keeping customers in the face of competition from satellite and phone companies. Executives said most of the losses were from households that have only cable-TV, while the company is focusing on getting customers to add broadband and phone service to capture higher monthly fees.

At NBCUniversal, revenue fell 2.4 percent compared to last year’s quarter, when NBC aired the Super Bowl. CBS aired it this year. However, NBCUniversal’s operating cash flow, a measure of profitability, rose. It was helped by the success of “Les Miserables” theaters, but was held back compared to last year by the later launch of the latest season of hit TV show “The Voice” as compared to last year.

As of March, Comcast owns all of NBCUniversal. It bought the 49 percent it didn’t own from General Electric Co. for $16.7 billion. It bought it initial stake in 2011 and was planning to buy the rest over time, but announced in January that it was buying out GE years ahead of schedule.