By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, March 13 Canadian media and telecom
company Quebecor Inc reported a 7 percent rise in
quarterly operating income on Thursday, but shed little light on
expansion plans after winning new wireless airwaves in a
government auction last month.
Quebecor's Videotron unit won licenses to operate wireless
airwaves in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia in the
auction, and added to its capacity in its home market of Quebec.
The wins mean it can now operate in Canada's four most populous
But the Montreal-based company was reluctant to detail its
plans for the spectrum, saying only that "various options for
maximizing the value of our investment are now available to us,"
and that it will assess those options in the coming months.
On a conference call with analysts, Quebecor executives said
a nondisclosure agreement prevented them from discussing a
possible purchase of Mobilicity, a startup wireless provider
currently under creditor protection. Mobilicity is also being
pursued by national telecom company Telus Corp.
Canada's Conservative federal government is eager to have a
fourth wireless provider in each part of the country, but may
have soured on Quebecor after the company's controlling
shareholder, former Chief Executive Pierre Karl Péladeau,
announced last weekend he would run for the separatist Parti
Quebecois in the April 7 Quebec provincial election.
Videotron added more than 25,000 wireless subscribers in the
fourth quarter, slightly fewer than expected. The unit lost
5,300 basic cable-TV subscribers, a slower decline than those
reported by its competitors, and added 10,100 Internet
Executives said 71 percent of its wireless customers were
using smartphones, which typically pay higher monthly bills, but
it didn't say when Videotron might offer Apple's iPhone
to its customers.
Quebecor said its news media business - led by the Sun chain
of metropolitan newspapers - and broadcasting operations were
both hurt by weak advertising trends, while competition with BCE
Inc was "intense" in fixed-line services in major
The company is in the process of selling a string of weekly
newspapers in Quebec to Transcontinental Inc, and in
its quarterly report it listed their results as discontinued
operations, pending regulatory approval.
Quebecor's adjusted operating income rose to C$391.3 million
($351.5 million) in the fourth quarter from C$366.1 million a
year earlier, helped by a 3.7 percent increase in revenue from
the Videotron telecom business, the company's biggest unit by
Net income attributable to shareholders rose to C$43.4
million, or 29 Canadian cents a share, from C$7.1 million, or 5
Canadian cents a share.
The company said it benefited from a C$66.5 million
favorable change in losses and gains on the valuation of
financial instruments, among some other gains.
Revenue was nearly flat at C$1.12 billion.
Quebecor shares were 0.5 percent lower at C$24.82 early on
Thursday afternoon on the Toronto Stock Exchange.