(Reuters) - BCE Inc (BCE.TO), Canada’s biggest telecom provider, reported higher quarterly profit and raised its dividend on Thursday, as the wireless and media divisions and investment gains boosted the bottom line.
But the Bell Canada parent said it expected revenue to stagnate or grow by at most 2 percent this year, compared with 3 percent growth in 2012.
For the final quarter of the year, profit was in line with expectations as strong performances in wireless and media more than offset Bell’s weaker wireline business.
Net postpaid wireless subscribers rose 9 percent, with the addition of nearly 144,000 Bell Canada customers. Postpaid subscriber figures are watched closely because those customers, who often sign multi-year contracts, typically pay more each month than prepaid subscribers.
BCE is still waiting for regulators to rule on its proposed acquisition of Astral Media Inc ACMa.TO, its biggest content provider. The company announced a C$3 billion deal for Astral last March, but broadcast regulators blocked the bid. The companies filed a revised application to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in November.
Fourth-quarter net earnings rose to C$708 million ($710 million), or 91 Canadian cents a share, from C$486 million, or 62 Canadian cents, a year earlier.
The bottom line benefited from a C$248 million non-cash gain related to a joint venture with Rogers to bring wireless broadband to remote communities and rural areas.
Excluding that gain and other items, adjusted earnings rose to 65 Canadian cents a share, from 62 Canadian cents a year earlier. Analysts, on average, had expected earnings of 66 Canadian cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
For 2013, BCE expects adjusted earnings per share from C$2.97 to C$3.03 for 2013. Restated to reflect a new pension accounting standard, adjusted earnings in 2012 were C$2.96 a share.
BCE’s operating revenue dipped to C$5.16 billion from with C$5.17 billion a year earlier, slightly less than with expectations.
The company raised its quarterly dividend 2.6 percent to C$0.5825 a share, over and above a 4.6 percent increase announced in August.
Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Frank McGurty and Grant McCool