President-elect Donald Trump "has bashed [Comcast Corp.'s] NBC news as biased, inaccurate and bad" and cast contempt on Comcast's BuzzFeed pieces and
Saturday Night Live
skits. Trump even "went so far as to say he would not have allowed Comcast's acquisition of NBCUniversal," notes bond analyst Dave Novosel, in a report to clients of Gimme Credit LLC.
The boycott of the inauguration by some Democrats will hurt Philly. But "despite the tough talk, we think it is likely that the Trump administration will be more lenient, from a regulatory perspective," if Comcast boss Brian Roberts opts to make another multibillion-dollar acquisition, Novosel said.
Comcast is in a strong place to fund deals. The company collected $21 billion in free cash flow above costs over the last three years, and spent a full $16 billion of that to buy back shares, propping up the stock price.
Novosel calls it "unlikely" that Comcast will divert that flow by attempting blockbuster combinations with T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, or Charter. More likely, it will try to buy more wireless spectrum whose prices in the recent government auction are off past highs.
Comcast has been spending 11 percent to 12 percent of revenue on capital expenditures, such as expanding its WiFi network and updating aging parts of its network, Novosel notes.
That still leaves room for the more modest acquisitions Comcast has pursued since its big TimeWarner cable deal was shot down. The company has spent just over $6 billion in the last three years on acquisitions, including $3.8 billion for DreamWorks Animation.
Without the Olympics or presidential campaign spots, TV ad revenues will likely be down this year, but Comcast theme parks "continue to cruise," retransmission fees are up, and business services sales and internet revenue is growing smartly.
So Gimme Credit, which does research on corporate bonds, recommends clients buy Comcast's investment-grade-rated debt at recent trading prices.
"Still no sign of Dow 20,000," reports Tom Siomades, head of Radnor-based Hartford Funds Investment Consulting Group, a $78 billion asset manager.
"There was a lot of enthusiasm" raising share prices in the weeks after Trump's election, but now "the news is mostly Trump sniping back and forth with people who disagree with him," Siomades said.
If the pros are skeptical, the public remains hopeful. Almost two-thirds of Pennsylvania investors expect the S&P 500 to rise strongly over the next six months, twice as many as expected that before Trump's election, according to a UBS survey cited by Brad Bernstein, senior vice president in the Swiss bank's Philly office.
Trump's penchant for "taking aim at an industry" has provoked brief jumps and dips in shares of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Siomades says. But investors need more than slogans before making long-term bets, he said.
"Everyone likes lower taxes. Everyone likes the right to health care. But now it's time to start breaking it down and say, 'How much is it going to cost?' It's hugely important to get this right," Siomades said.
With Trump's cabinet picks parading before Congress, "it's less nebulous than slogans. Now their feet are finally being held to the fire," he said.
After Friday's inauguration and more earnings reports over the next week, and as the Trump administration unveils more concrete proposals in the coming months, the market should "decide on a direction" and "break out of the narrow range it has occupied for about a month," Siomades concluded.