UPDATE 3-BCE profit beats due to Astral takeover, wireless growth

Tue May 6, 2014 10:48am EDT
 
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(Adds detail from analyst call, adds share reaction)

By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO May 6 (Reuters) - BCE Inc, Canada's largest telecommunications company, reported better-than-expected adjusted profit on Tuesday, helped by the inclusion of TV and radio content producer Astral Media and strong growth in its wireless business.

Price hikes tied to a new industry code that shortens the duration of contracts as well as the lack of iconic smartphone device launches acted as a drag on wireless growth in the first quarter, the Montreal-based company said.

Higher content costs and lower ad revenue also hurt media earnings, it added.

"Wireless growth is clearly punching above its weight," BCE Chief Executive Officer George Cope said on a call with analysts. He said improving landline earnings later in the year should offset content cost pressures for media.

BCE, which operates under the Bell brand, maintained its revenue and profit forecast for 2014.

Bell added 33,964 net contract wireless subscribers in the three months to the end of March, compared to almost 60,000 in the same quarter a year ago. Such customers are coveted because they sign multi-year contracts and pay more each month than prepaid subscribers.

The average Bell wireless customer's monthly bill was C$57.90, a rise of 3.5 percent.   Continued...