October 23, 2008 / 12:42 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 3-Shaw Comms' wireless plans on hold; profit dips

* Shaw Communications Q4 net profit dips

* No plans for wireless spending in 2009

* Sees cable unit profit growth of about 10 pct in 2009

* Stock up 1.5 pct on Toronto Stock Exchange (Adds analyst comments, share prices)

OTTAWA, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Shaw Communications Inc SJRb.TO said on Thursday it does not plan to invest in wireless operations in 2009 as it posted a slightly lower fourth-quarter profit.

Closely watched for details on its wireless plans after the government’s spectrum auction closed this summer, Shaw had previously said it would invest C$300 million to C$400 million to build a network.

Chief Executive Jim Shaw said Canada’s No. 2 cable and satellite TV company will continue to review its wireless strategy and that its entry into the market should be “measured and prudent” because of a changing competitive landscape.

Media and publishing group Quebecor Inc QBRa.TO said on Wednesday it will spend up to C$1 billion over four years to roll out a wireless network.

BCE, Telus and Rogers Communications currently dominate Canada’s wireless market.

“The message for the stock is that the bullish cable investment thesis remains intact and wireless spending will be a prudent endeavor,” National Bank Financial analyst Greg MacDonald said in a note.

“The market has been fixated on cable wireless investments for these stocks and was anticipating a Quebecor-like commitment. However, as in the past, Shaw appears disposed to prudent capital expenditure.”

Shaw stock gained 1.5 percent to C$20.04 on the Toronto Stock Exchange and added 0.8 percent to $15.94 on New York.

QUARTERLY PROFIT SLIPS

The company said Thursday its net income dipped to C$132 million, or 31 Canadian cents a share, in the fourth quarter ended Aug. 31 from C$136 million, or 31 Canadian cents a share, a year earlier.

Revenue was 13 percent higher at C$806 million.

Analysts had expected a profit of 30 Canadian cents a share, both on a net and before-items basis, and revenue of C$805 million, according to Reuters Estimates.

The Calgary, Alberta-based company said its preliminary view of 2009 operating income growth in its cable unit is about 10 percent before amortization and it sees “modest growth” in its satellite division.

It did not detail capital expenditure, but sees free cash flow generation of at least C$500 million.

UBS analyst Jeffrey Fan said the earnings forecast was lower than expected, but the free cash flow estimate was slightly better than he anticipated.

Shaw said it added 61,999 digital phone lines in the quarter. It gained 23,020 digital customers, 24,785 Internet subscribers, and 4,122 basic cable customers. It also added 1,736 direct-to-home satellite subscribers.

Free cash flow increased to C$143 million from C$76 million in the year-ago quarter.

$1=$1.26 Canadian Reporting by Susan Taylor; editing by Rob Wilson

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