May 3, 2012 / 11:15 AM / 5 years ago

BCE profit lifted by wireless, media segments

TORONTO (Reuters) - BCE Inc (BCE.TO), Canada’s largest telephone company, said on Thursday its first-quarter profit grew 14.1 percent, lifted by strength in its wireless and media divisions.

The Montreal-based parent of Bell Canada said its wireless division benefited from growth in its postpaid subscriber base and higher average revenue per user, as users snapped up data-intensive smartphones. BCE, which has recently bought several major media companies, also saw its media unit’s revenue jump.

BCE said quarterly net profit grew to C$574 million, or 74 Canadian cents per share, from C$503 million, or 67 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings were C$580 million, or 75 Canadian cents a share. That compares with C$543 million or 72 Canadian cents a share a year earlier. Analysts, on average, had expected earnings per share of 72 Canadian cents in the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue grew 9.9 percent to C$4.91 billion, just shy of analysts’ average estimate of C$4.96 billion.

In the quarter, the company added 62,576 net postpaid subscribers, a closely watched metric of growth of its most valuable wireless customers, who typically sign long-term contracts and spend more to use data on the latest smartphones.

Smartphone users represented 52 percent of total postpaid subscribers at the end of the first quarter, up from 34 percent a year earlier.

Bell said its average wireless customer paid C$53.84 a month for service in the quarter, compared with C$51.68 a year earlier.

Rogers Communications Inc (RCIb.TO), Canada’s largest mobile phone company, said last week it added 47,000 such contract customers in its most recent quarter. Its wireless customers, on average, spent C$57.65 a month in the quarter, down from C$59.91 a year earlier.

The third major wireless provider, Telus Corp (T.TO), will report its first-quarter results on May 9.

Bell said growth in its media division was driven by higher advertising sales across its television, radio and digital media businesses, as well as higher subscriber fees paid by broadcast distributors for carrying Bell Media’s TV services.

Bell has been rapidly growing its media arm that was formed in April 2011 after it acquired CTV. On Wednesday, Canada’s Competition Bureau gave Bell and Rogers the go-ahead to buy a majority stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment for C$1.32 billion($1.33 billion).

In March, BCE agreed to buy Astral Media ACMa.TO, its largest content provider, in a C$3 billion deal to lock up more of the programming carried over its media platforms and to expand its presence in French-speaking Quebec.

“We look forward to welcoming Montreal-based Astral Media to the Bell team later this year as Bell works to expand our media leadership,” Chief Executive George Cope said in a statement on Thursday.

($1 = 0.9890 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Euan Rocha and Alastair Sharp. Editing by Dave Zimmerman and Bernadette Baum

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