BCE rides media, wireless units to profit growth
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO (Reuters) - BCE Inc, Canada's biggest telecommunications company, posted a 17 percent rise in adjusted quarterly profit and raised its dividend on Thursday, helped by strong growth in its media wing and ongoing strength in wireless.
The Montreal-based parent of Bell has moved forcefully into a leading position in the media industry in recent years with several large acquisitions, while creeping up on market leader Rogers Communications Inc in wireless and launching an updated Internet-based television product.
BCE Chief Executive Officer George Cope said on a call with investors he was "clearly disappointed in not being a part of the new national NHL contract" which Rogers locked up in a 12-year C$5.2 billion hockey broadcast deal in November.
Analysts described the results as solid, with minor positive surprises in the size of the dividend hike and the relative strength of BCE's lagging landline business.
"The steady results set a tone for a good start to 2014," Desjardins analyst Maher Yaghi wrote in a note.
"As penetration for IPTV increases, BCE should continue to post improving results in wireline, which is important for the long-term sustainability of the dividend."
Bell said it added 119,520 net contract wireless subscribers in the three months to the end of 2013, and the average monthly bill of a Bell wireless customer was C$57.92. That is down from C$58.30 in the prior quarter but above a year earlier.
The gain in customers was less than in the year ago quarter, which Bell said demonstrated the competitive intensity of the holiday period, coupled with slimmer discounts on handsets. Continued...