Canada's Astral, Corus profits, shares take divergent paths

Thu Apr 11, 2013 3:24pm EDT
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - Two of Canada's biggest independent media companies handed in very different earnings report cards on Thursday, with profits at Corus Entertainment Inc plunging 81 percent while rival Astral Media Inc reported a 9 percent jump in earnings.

Shares of Corus plunged 5 percent, while shares of Astral were little changed.

Astral, which is waiting for regulators to rule on a revised proposal to be acquired by BCE Inc, Canada's biggest telecom provider and owner of the CTV television network, said growth at its main television operation and smaller outdoor advertising unit more than offset a slip in radio revenue.

Astral said it saw no reason for the good times to end as it expects to lure more TV subscribers with its recently launched video streaming services, which allow customers to watch movies on mobile devices such as Apple's iPad, something that should help bring in more advertisers and perhaps boost ad rates.

"When I look at bookings I'm optimistic...that we should be looking at mid-single-digit increases in advertising for the balance of the year," Ian Greenberg, chief executive of Astral, told analysts on a conference call.

By contrast, Corus said earnings, already hurt by poor television unit performance, were affected by a C$25 million pre-tax charge on a debt refinancing that should place the company on firmer financial footing.

Corus said TV revenue fell 12 percent, hurt by dismal performance in the children's segment, which along with women's programming makes up the bulk of its offering.

"A problem well defined is a problem half-solved. To define the specific problem it was kids, and more specifically the entertainment sector," Corus CEO John Cassaday said on a call.   Continued...