Roberts Mum on Adelphia Bid Details

Comcast Corp. chairman and CEO Brian Roberts appeared to confirm Thursday what everybody else already knew -- that the company has teamed up with Time Warner Inc. on a joint bid for Adelphia Communications Corp. -- but he offered no details as to their bid.

Several sources and published reports have said that Comcast teamed up with Time Warner in a bid for Adelphia that hovered around the $17 billion mark. Neither Time Warner nor Comcast would confirm that figure.

But on a conference call with analysts to discuss its fourth-quarter financial results, Roberts said an Adelphia bid confirms Comcast’s commitment to cable.

“There isn’t much that I can say about Adelphia other than it hopefully represents our desire and belief in the cable business’ future,” Roberts said on the call.

“Generally speaking on acquisitions, what we’ve said in cable is that we hope the deals to be creative and accretive and we don’t feel compelled, yet if there are opportunities that come along, we’re always going to look at them,” he added. “I think this certainly may have those characteristics.”

No matter how the Adelphia auction pans out, Comcast said it is focused on growing its existing business.

Comcast president and chief operating officer Steve Burke reiterated on the call that 2005 will be the year of cable telephony for the company, adding that the MSO will roll out its Internet-protocol-telephone product in 17 markets -- including Boston; Philadelphia; Chicago; Hartford, Conn.; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle -- in 2005.

Burke said Comcast expects to sign on 200,000-250,000 IP-telephone customers this year, offset by the loss of about 100,000 circuit-switched-telephone customers.

Fourth-quarter financial results were strong, with revenue up 10.6% to $5 billion and operating cash flow increasing 15.2% to $2 billion. Comcast also added 60,000 basic subscribers in the seasonally strong period, as well as 250,000 digital customers and 437,000 high-speed Internet subscribers.

Comcast said it expects basic-subscriber growth for this year to be flat and projected that digital- and high-speed-subscriber growth would be comparable to 2004, when the MSO reported 1 million and 1.7 million additions, respectively.