April 11, 2012 / 12:57 PM / in 5 years

UPDATE 2-Astral profit rises 10 pct as TV revenue climbs

* Q2 EPS C$0.69 vs C$0.60 yr ago

* Consolidated rev C$233.5 mln vs C$232.7 mln yr ago

* Television ad revenue rises 4 pct

* Astral is being acquired by BCE for C$3 bln

* Shares are little changed in Toronto

April 11 (Reuters) - Canada’s Astral Media Inc on Wednesday posted a 10 percent rise in quarterly profit on solid gains in television revenue a nd said it expected TV advertising to keep rising for the rest of the year.

Montreal-based Astral, in the process of being acquired by Canada’s largest telecom company BCE Inc for C$3 billion ($2.99 billion), reported a 4 percent rise in television ad re venue. The gain was welcome as a tough advertising climate has hindered its te levision operations in recent quarters.

Astral CEO Ian Greenberg said advertising revenue would like pick up further in the next two quarters.

“We are feeling much more confident ... based on bookings and just based on discussions we had with advertisers,” he said during a conference call with analysts. “We do see more confidence and are predicting that we will have reasonable increases.”

Astral’s television portfolio includes the Movie Network and HBO Canada, as well as French-language Super Écran and Canal Vie, among more than 20 specialty cable networks and pay-television channels.

Net profit rose to C$38.2 million ($38.10 million), or 69 Canadian cents a share for the three months to Feb 29, compared with C$34.7 million, or 60 Canadian cents, a year earlier. Revenue was little changed at C$233.5 million.

Astral’s radio stations, some of which will likely need to be divested as part of the BCE buyout, showed a 3 percent decline in revenue, w h ile sales for its much smaller outdoor advertising arm grew 8 percent.

Later this year, the company plans to launch a version of the HBO cable channel for viewing on mobile phones and tablet computers. It has already signed up some of its distribution partners.

BCE, the parent of Bell Canada, is buying Astral, its largest content provider, to lock up more of the programming carried over its media platforms and expand its presence in French-speaking Quebec.

The purchase could attract close scrutiny from regulators given BCE’s growing heft as a broadcaster since buying CTV, Canada’s largest private broadcaster.

BCE expects to close the Astral deal six months after Astral shareholders approve it. A stral said it expects the deal to close by the end of September.

Astral’s Class A shares traded 3 cents higher at C$48.50 on Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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