July 9, 2009 / 1:04 PM / in 9 years

UPDATE 2-Astral Media profit up on rise in TV subscriptions

* Q3 EPS C$0.78 vs C$0.75 year earlier

* Revenue C$232.5 mln vs C$231.9 mln

* Class A shares dip 1.7 pct to C$27.53 (Updates with share price, analyst comments)

OTTAWA, July 9 (Reuters) - Canadian television and radio company Astral Media Inc ACMa.TO ACMa.TO reported a modest increase in quarterly profit on Thursday as specialty and pay-TV subscriber revenue gains offset declines in advertising.

Montreal-based Astral said that earnings rose to C$44.3 million ($38.2 million), or 78 Canadian cents a share, in its third quarter, ended May 31, from C$43.3 million, or 75 Canadian cents a share, a year earlier.

Analysts, on average, had forecast profit of 77 Canadian cents a share on a comparable basis, according to Reuters Estimates.

Astral, which also has outdoor advertising and interactive media units, said revenue edged up to C$232.5 million from C$231.9 million even though an industry-wide drop in advertising demand affected all its major markets.

Closely watched earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization were almost flat at C$82.2 million, compared with C$82 million a year earlier.

Astral closed the quarter with C$38.5 million in cash, compared with C$25 million at the same time last year.

“In the current economic environment, subscription revenue continues to show modest growth as audiences shift to more specialty programming,” Desjardins Securities analyst Eric Bernofsky said in a note. “We expect this trend to continue, with the weakness is TV advertising offset by steady subscriber gains and rate increases.”

Astral’s class A shares dipped 35 Canadian cents, or 1.25 percent, to C$27.65 on the Toronto Stock Exchange after the results were issued, while the more lightly traded class B shares rose 26 Canadian cents to C$29.00.

$1=$1.16 Canadian Reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by Peter Galloway

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