National News

BCE reports higher Q1 earnings, revenues

By The Canadian Press

MONTREAL - BCE Inc. is reporting first-quarter net earnings of $615 million, up 8.7 per cent, led by growth in its wireless and media divisions.

That's 79 cents per share, compared with $566 million or 73 cents per share in the same quarter a year ago for the telecommunications giant.

Adjusted net earnings were $626 million, up 4.5 per cent, from $599 million year-over-year.

Adjusted earnings per share were 81 cents, beating analysts' expectations of 76 cents, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters. BCE (TSX:BCE) earned 77 cents of adjusted EPS in the same quarter in 2013.

BCE says its operating revenues grew 3.7 per cent to $5.09 billion from $4.91 billion a year ago. Revenue missed analysts' expectations of $5.12 billion.

The Montreal-based company says higher revenue from its wireless, TV, Internet as well as other broadband services and media now deliver 83 per cent of its revenues.

"Bell begins 2014 with solid first-quarter financial results that underline the operating momentum we have across our growth services, especially in wireless, residential wireline and media," chief financial officer Siim Vanaselja said in a news release on Tuesday.

Bell's revenues, which include wireless, TV and Internet and Bell Media, increased 4.4 per cent to $4.5 billion, helped by the recent acquisition of pay and specialty TV company Astral Media.

Wireless revenues increased 4.5 per cent to $1.47 billion in the quarter, from $1.40 billion last year.

Bell added 33,964 postpaid net customers, usually smartphone subscribers on two-year contracts. That compared with 59,497 in the same quarter last year.

Bell said 74 per cent of its postpaid customers were smartphone subscribers, compared with 71 per cent year-over-year.

Revenues for Bell Media, which includes TV and specialty TV channels, increased by 40.7 per cent to $722 million thanks to higher advertising and subscriber fees from the Astral acquisition. Rate increases in specialty TV services and higher revenues from new mobile content deals also helped Bell Media's revenues.

Revenues for subsidiary Bell Aliant (TSX: BA) decreased 1.2 per cent to $676 million in the first quarter due to continued declines in local and long-distance phone customers and competition.

BCE Inc., which owns Bell Canada, CTV Inc. and other media and telecom companies, said its guidance targets outlined on Feb. 6 remain on track. Bell's revenue growth is expected to range from two to four per cent for the year while BCE's adjusted earnings-per-share is expected to be in the $3.10-$3.20 range.

As of March 31, BCE said it had 7.9 million wireless subscribers, up 1.2 per cent from a year ago. The number of Internet subscribers grew 3.4 per cent to 3.16 million.

Bell Fibe TV added 54,680 net new customers during the quarter, up 15.2 per cent. The company says its total number of TV subscribers rose 8.1 per cent to 2.52 million.

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