BCE reports third-quarter profit up from year ago, revenue also grows

·3 min read

TORONTO — BCE Inc. boosted its year-over-year earnings by 10 per cent last quarter, matching analyst expectations amid more mobile and internet subscribers and heftier ad spending across its platforms.

The parent company of Bell Canada and media companies that include CTV, TSN and radio stations saw revenue from its wireless network jump five per cent year over year in its third quarter to $1.65 billion, benefiting from a 14 per cent leap in net new mobile phone subscribers.

Media operating revenue rose 14.5 per cent to $719 million, riding a higher wave of advertiser spending on television, radio and digital media platforms. Bell Media subscriber revenue also increased more than 12 per cent, driven by a five per cent bump in viewers signing up for the Crave streaming platform.

"The market has kind of been pent-up," chief executive Mirko Bibic told investors on a conference call Tuesday, citing the impact of COVID-19. "And stores coming back helped in terms of capturing that pent-up demand."

"We're all benefiting from a little bit of the rising-tide-lifts-all-boats kind of approach to this," he said, referring to steady or upward revenue for telecommunications rivals Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. "But in our case, I'm quite pleased with our performance in pretty much every geography."

BCE reported net earnings of $813 million in the quarter ended Sept. 30 compared with $740 million in the same period a year earlier.

Profit attributable to common shareholders totalled $757 million or 83 cents per share for the quarter ended Sept. 30, the company said. The result compared with a profit of $692 million or 77 cents per share a year ago.

Operating revenue totalled $5.84 billion, up from $5.79 billion in the same quarter last year.

On an adjusted basis, BCE said it earned 82 cents per share, up from an adjusted profit of 79 cents per share a year ago.

The result matched the average analyst estimate compiled by financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

While financial results were in line with expectations, they exceeded forecasts in terms of subscribers, said Jerome Dubreuil of Desjardins Capital Markets.

"However, we note that subscriber whisper expectations had likely risen in light of Rogers Communications Inc.’s stellar wireless net additions," he wrote in a report.

While wireless numbers were good, they were not market-leading, he added. Wireless network revenue growth of five per cent surpassed Rogers which reported a 3.3 per cent increase.

BCE added 114,821 wireless postpaid net additions in the quarter. That's above the 104,800 forecast by analysts but less than 175,000 added by Rogers. BCE said there were 21,643 net additions while wireless average billing per user (ABPU) grew 1.1 per cent, compared with 1.8 per cent growth for Rogers.

Meanwhile, the 64,800 net internet additions was the best in 15 years, contributing to $3.02 billion in wireline revenue.

"We believe the accelerated fibre deployment (which was likely faster in the third quarter than in previous quarters due to the more favourable summer weather) more than offset the slowing net adds tailwind from the COVID-19 pandemic," added Dubreuil.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:BCE, (TSX:SJR.B, TSX:RCI.B)

The Canadian Press

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