Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable company, closed above $100 billion in market capitalization Tuesday for the first time.
Since buying a controlling stake in NBCUniversal on Jan. 29, 2011, Comcast has seen its stock increase in price by more than two-thirds. The company has benefited from improving prime-time ratings among 18- to 49-year-olds at the network, which climbed from last place to first this season.
Comcast, which has about 22 million cable-TV subscribers, now has a higher market valuation than McDonald's Corp., Home Depot Inc., and Walt Disney Co. And it's closing in on technology heavyweights such as Intel Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., and Qualcomm Inc.
Comcast's ascension is emblematic of both a successful acquisition and an industry that has weathered difficult economic times, said Frank Louthan, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates in Atlanta.
Comcast rose 1.4 percent to $38.05 at the close Tuesday amid a broader wave of cable-stock gains. Time Warner Cable Inc. climbed 0.4 percent to $96.27 for a 51 percent increase this year. Charter Communications Inc., up 30 percent this year, advanced 4.8 percent to $74.14 Tuesday.
Comcast is the best-performing stock in the 16-member Standard & Poor's media index this year. While the Philadelphia-based company shed cable-TV subscribers in 2012, the losses have shrunk year over year for eight straight quarters. Comcast's reliable revenue flow also appeals to investors in a shaky economy, said Louthan, who has the equivalent of a buy rating on Comcast and a $42 price target.
Comcast spent $13.8 billion in cash and assets to buy its majority stake in NBC. Chief financial officer Michael Angelakis said in September that Comcast was considering purchasing the remainder of NBC, owned by General Electric Co., in 2014. The network has relied on hit shows such as Sunday Night Football, The Voice, and Revolution to boost ratings this year, following years of last-place showings.