* Corus profit plunges as television revenue slips
* Astral reports solid growth in TV, outdoor advertising
* Astral says BCE deal should close by June, end July latest
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, April 11 Two of Canada's biggest
independent media companies handed in very different earnings
report cards on Thursday, with profits plunging at Corus
Entertainment Inc while rival Astral Media Inc's
earnings jumped 9 percent.
Astral, which is waiting for regulators to rule on a revised
proposal to be acquired by BCE Inc, said growth at its
main television operation and smaller outdoor advertising unit
more than offset a slip in radio revenue.
By contrast, Corus revealed a debt refinancing that further
undercut quarterly earnings already hurt by poor television unit
performance, but should place the company on firmer financial
The two companies compete to sell their television content
to cable and satellite companies, and each own radio stations.
Astral is the single largest provider of content to BCE,
which has moved aggressively to secure ownership of news,
sports, films and other content distributed via its television
and Internet services.
Astral and BCE hope to close their deal by the start of
June, but gave themselves rights to postpone it until the end of
Astral's net profit rose to C$38.3 million ($37.6 million),
or 68 Canadian cents a share, from C$35.0 million, or 63 cents a
share, a year earlier.
Excluding the Bell-Astral transaction and other costs, the
Montreal-based company's earnings rose 8 percent to C$41.2
million. Revenue rose 2 percent to C$237.1 million.
Canada's broadcaster regulator, the Canadian
Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), will
open a public hearing on the planned takeover in May, after BCE
earlier agreed to divest itself of a swathe of Astral's TV and
Astral puts the value of the assets BCE plans to retain at
TALE OF TWO COMPANIES
Corus, whose content is primarily targeted at women and
children, said net income attributable to shareholders fell to
C$5.9 million ($5.8 million), or 7 Canadian cents per share,
from C$31.6 million, or 38 Canadian cents per share, a year
Total revenue fell almost 11 percent to C$183.7 million.
Revenue at its main television business tumbled 12 percent.
Adjusted income, which does not include the cost of its debt
refinancing, was C$24.4 million, or 29 cents a share.
Analysts on average expected Corus to earn 36 cents a share
on revenue of C$199.7 million, according to Thomson Reuters
RBC Capital Markets analyst Haran Posner said the miss was
driven mainly by weak television earnings and a fall in
merchandise sales, and that advertising revenue fell despite
management guidance of low single-digit growth.
Corus, controlled by the Shaw family, which also runs cable
company Shaw Communications Inc, is looking to rein in
costs as it struggles with unstable audience trends.
Corus said in March it would buy some French-language
television assets and take full control of other programming in
a three-way deal with Shaw and BCE, which has been forced to
divest some of its planned Astral purchase to win regulatory
Astral gained about a penny in early trading to C$48.89 on
the Toronto Stock Exchange. They had jumped sharply to near
BCE's offer price last March before sinking back after the
initial rejection in October. They jumped again after the two
companies revised the deal and passed other regulatory hurdles.
Corus' shares were down 88 cents at C$24.75. The stock has
gained some 17 percent since October 2012.