February 13, 2009 / 1:33 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 3-Telus profit drops, but wireless lifts revenue

* Q4 EPS 89 Canadian cents vs C$1.22 a year earlier

* Telus books fewer positive tax-related adjustments

* Restructuring costs rise by C$32 million

* Wireless helps revenue grow by 5.3 pct to C$2.45 billion

* Stock drops about 1 pct (Adds details, Telus executive comments, stock price)

By Wojtek Dabrowski

TORONTO, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Telus Corp (T.TO), Canada’s No. 2 telephone company, said on Friday profit dropped as it booked fewer tax-related gains and spent more on restructuring, but revenue rose thanks to the company’s wireless business, which stayed strong even as the economy slowed.

Shares of Telus receded about 1 percent after it reported a 29 percent decline in fourth-quarter earnings after recording favorable tax-related adjustments of C$32 million, compared with C$143 million a year earlier.

Restructuring costs increased by C$32 million. The company said it froze executive compensation, reduced travel and other expenses and slimmed managment layers.

But revenue rose 5.3 percent to C$2.45 billion, fueled by growth in wireless subscribers.

Wireless revenue per subscriber dropped along with mobile calling prices, and the number of new high-speed Internet customers signed up by Telus dropped 27 percent compared with the year-earlier.

Even so, revenue per subscriber would have fallen more sharply but more customers were picking up feature-rich smartphones, such as Research In Motion Ltd’s RIM.TORIMM.O BlackBerry, and using services like text-messaging and Facebook, which boosts data revenue.

Analyst Troy Crandall of MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier in Montreal said the overall quarterly results were largely in line with his expectations.

Still, the weak economy may already have affected Telus’ profitability, he added, as subscribers look to cut costs by reducing their monthly telecom bills.

“What you may see is that people, when they renew their contracts, may start to go to lower-price plans,” he said. “But I don’t necessarily think that people are willing to give up their wireless device.”

Fourth-quarter earnings fell to C$285 million (US$231.7 million), or 89 Canadian cents a share, from C$400 million, or C$1.22, a year earlier.

Telus is currently in a three-way fight with rivals BCE Inc (BCE.TO) and Rogers Communications Inc (RCIb.TO) for dominance of Canada’s wireless market.

Competition is poised to intensify further in coming months as a number of new entrants won wireless spectrum in a government auction last year. They promise to roll out networks to compete with the established players.

The Big Three have also launched or beefed up their discount wireless brands, such as Telus’ own Koodo, to capture cost-conscious consumers.

Telus said it had added 119,000 postpaid, or longer-term, wireless subscribers during the quarter, marking an increase of 11 percent.

However, average monthly revenue per wireless subscriber declined 2.4 percent to C$62.16. The prices of wireless voice service continued to fall even as data revenue grew, Telus said. Monthly churn, or subscriber turnover, inched higher to 1.62 percent from 1.59 percent a year earlier.

Telus added 19,000 high-speed Internet users, a drop of 27 percent from the new customers of a year earlier. It blamed increased competition and said the market is maturing.

Even so, the company said it was encouraged by the overall growth in wireless revenue at a time when many consumers and businesses are looking to cut costs.

“We continue to enjoy considerable success in the important smartphone category and see it as a continued growth area, even as the economy is slowing down,” Chief Financial Officer Robert McFarlane said during a conference call with analysts.

Telus shares were down 43 Canadian cents to C$34.61 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. ($1=$1.23 Canadian) (Reporting by Wojtek Dabrowski; editing by Frank McGurty)

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