Astral profit rises on ad, subscription TV revenue

Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:58pm EST
 
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(Reuters) - Canada's Astral Media Inc ACMa.TO reported a higher quarterly profit on Thursday, benefiting from higher advertising revenue across its business segments and growth in subscriptions.

Astral, which is waiting for regulators to rule on its proposed acquisition by Bell Canada's parent, said subscription revenue from pay television and specialty channels rose 1 percent in the first quarter ended on November 30. The company also owns radio stations and an outdoor advertising business.

Astral posted a 4 percent increase in television advertising revenue, even though it had expected no advertising growth in its largest segment. The company said it had boosted its market share by 13 percent among specialty television viewers aged 25 to 54.

Depreciation, amortization and financial expenses fell, and the effective income tax rate was slightly lower.

BCE Inc BCE.TO announced plans in March to buy Astral, its biggest content provider. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission blocked the C$3 billion bid in October, but the companies filed a revised application in November.

The companies said the new proposal addressed the regulator's concerns over the level of control the deal would give BCE over Canadian media, spelling out how it would stay within relevant viewership thresholds.

Astral's net income rose to C$59.1 million ($60.0 million), or C$1.04 a share, from C$55.8 million, or C$1.00, a year earlier. Excluding costs from the BCE deal, earnings increased to C$1.05 a share. Analysts on average had expected C$1.03, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose to C$274.5 million from C$271.1 million, just shy of the consensus estimate of C$277.2 million.

(The story corrects second paragraph to make clear 1 pct revenue gain was for pay television and specialty channels, not specialty channels alone)

(Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Von Ahn)