Cablevision Systems Corporation (CVC): Should We Follow Mario Gabelli Into This Stock?

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Mario GabelliRecently, billionaire Mario Gabelli reported that he owned around 19.1 million shares of Cablevision Systems Corporation (NYSE:CVC) at the end of May, much higher than what he had owned at the end of the first quarter this year. Since the beginning of the year, Cablevision has dropped 1.74%, lagging behind peers such as Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and DIRECTV (NASDAQ:DTV). For the past six months, DirecTV has been the best performing stock with a 23.6% gain while Comcast’s share price has increased nearly 6.4%. Should we follow Mario Gabelli into Cablevision? Let’s find out.

Sluggish share price performance

Cablevision Systems Corporation (NYSE:CVC) is one of the biggest cable operators in the U.S., serving around 3.2 million video customers, more than 3 million high-speed data customers, and more than 2.4 million voice customers in several states including Montana, Wyoming, New York, and Utah. The sluggish share price might be due to its sluggish operating performance.

In the first quarter 2013, it experienced a slight decline in revenue, from $1.54 billion in the first quarter 2012 to more than $1.52 billion in the first quarter this year. While it generated more than $57.2 million in net income in Q1 2012, Cablevision Systems Corporation (NYSE:CVC) produced a loss of more than $16.1 million in the recent quarter. Its adjusted operating cash flow (AOCF) experienced a decrease of 23.1% due to higher programming costs, higher employee-related costs, and the cost related to Hurricane Sandy.

Positive outlook

Looking forward, Cablevision Systems Corporation (NYSE:CVC) stated that WiFi would still be one of the company’s strategic initiatives, with around 80,000 Optimum WiFi access points being used by more than one million customers. Even with several challenges, including rising programming costs and increasing competition, Cablevision estimates double-digit sequential AOCF in the second quarter, thanks to the rising advertising revenue and spending reduction. Mario Gabelli believes that Cablevision could generate around $6.3 billion in revenue with around $1.6 billion in EBITDA. Its EBITDA has been growing, which could allow Cablevision to reduce its debt level.

Cablevision Systems Corporation (NYSE:CVC) is trading at around $14.70 per share with a total market cap of more than $3.9 billion. The market values Cablevision at 7.7 times EV/EBITDA. EV/EBITDA represents Enterprise Value/Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization. This valuation ratio takes into account the relationship between the firm’s market value, adjusted by its cash and debt level, compared to its cash flow position. Interestingly, Cablevision is the most expensively valued in comparison to Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and DIRECTV (NASDAQ:DTV).

Are Comcast and DirecTV better buys?

Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is trading at $39.70 per share with a total market cap of $104.6 billion. The market values Comcast a bit cheaply at 7.2 times its EV/EBITDA. Comcast made a good strategic move with its complete acquisition of NBCUniversal. According to Comcast, NBC has real upside even though it has not been performing well for many years. Comcast saw that it would be able to provide better programming, which could lead to higher ratings, leading to higher CPMs.

In the first quarter of 2013, Comcast experienced good growth in both its top and bottom lines. Revenue increased 2.9% to nearly $15.3 billion while EPS jumped 20% to $0.54. Free cash flow came in at $3.14 billion, 3.3% higher than the first quarter of 2012. Comcast has a good history of returning cash to shareholders. Its dividend increased from $0.27 per share in 2009 to $0.65 in 2012. Comcast expects to pay $0.78 per share in dividends (20% year-over-year growth) and spend around $2 billion to repurchase its shares for the full year 2013.

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