BCE earns $343M as Fibe TV makes inroads

Fibe TV is growing rapidly, but BCE still missed analysts estimates for third quarter profit.

BCE profit down as it pays $230M regulatory charge in Astral Media takeover

At CRTC hearings, Wednesday, Bell addressed criticisms to its $25 basic TV package and announced changes (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Bell Canada's internet protocol television service known as Fibe TV increased its customer base by nearly 73,000 subscribers in the third quarter amid intense competition against cable services.

Bell CEO George Cope said Thursday that Fibe TV also pulled in more high-speed internet customers for the telecom and media giant, which competes against Rogers, Videotron and Cogeco.

"We are confident that as we roll out the footprint we're starting to see the right subscriber growth that we would expect," Cope told financial analysts.

Cope noted that Fibe TV's growth was helped by several factors, including short-term promotions and a seasonal boost from back-to-school additions.

In addition, some of the gains at Fibe TV came at the expense of Bell's older satellite TV service.

420,000 Fibe subscribers

During the three months ended Sept. 30, Bell had 72,843 net new subscribers for Fibe TV, bringing the total subscriber based for the internet TV service to nearly 420,000 from 200,000 a year earlier.

In total, Bell had 2.24 million subscribers to both internet and satellite TV delivery services at the end of the third quarter, up about 100,000 from 2.14 million a year earlier.

Bell also added 36,638 high-speed Internet customers, the biggest quarterly gain since 2007, bringing the company's total subscriber base for that service to 2.15 million.

Bell's wireline division, which includes home phone, long-distance and business services as well as Fibe TV and Fibe Internet, saw its revenues slightly decline to $2.48 billion, down 0.9 per cent.

Its wireless division, which includes Bell Mobility, saw slower subscriber growth with 102,714 net new postpaid customers during the quarter, missing one analyst's estimate of 125,000 for the quarter.

Wireless revenues up 4.1%

Bell's wireless division increased its operating revenues by 4.1 per cent to $1.49 billion, compared with $1.42 billion year-over-year.

Smartphone users represented 73 per cent of the total postpaid subscribers at the end of the quarter, compared with 60 per cent a year earlier.

The company's media division, which includes its CTV stations and the acquisition of Astral Media, had year-over-year revenue growth of 21.6 per cent to $664 million from $546 million.

Bell's parent BCE said its net income attributable to shareholders dropped by 35 per cent to $343 million from $527 million in the same quarter last year, due to a $230 million regulatory charge that Bell had to pay as a result of its $3.8-billion acquisition of Astral Media earlier this year.

On a per-share basis, net income was 44 cents, down from 68 cents a year earlier.

Fails to meet estimates

Adjusted net earnings per share, which excludes certain items, increased to $584 million or 75 cents per share. That was up from 70 cents per share a year earlier but two cents below estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.

Overall revenue for Bell's parent BCE. Inc. rose 2.3 per cent from a year earlier to just under $5.1 billion, which was slightly below estimates of $5.16 billion.

Despite missing the analyst estimates for the quarter ended Sept. 30, BCE said Thursday that it's on track to meet its 2013 financial targets.

"We are now very well positioned to continue with our dividend growth strategy in 2014," Cope said.

With files from CBC News


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