* Fourth-quarter adjusted profit C$0.88 vs C$0.66 year ago
* Shares jump more than 5 percent
* Annual dividend increased by 10 pct
* CEO Nadir Mohamed to retire in January 2014
* C$500 million stock buyback authorized
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, Feb 15 Rogers Communications Inc
, Canada's largest wireless company, posted a 30
percent rise in adjusted quarterly profit, increased its
dividend and said its chief executive would leave the company
early next year.
A successor was not named for CEO Nadir Mohamed, who will
retire in January 2014. He has led the company since the death
of Ted Rogers, the broadcast and telecommunications company's
founder, four years ago.
Shares of the company jumped more than 5 percent to C$47.79,
its highest price since late 2007, after it announced the change
as well as steps to enhance shareholder value.
It increased its annual dividend by 10 percent to C$1.74 per
share and authorized repurchases of up to C$500 million of the
company's stock, or roughly 10 percent of the public float.
"I think the dividend increase has a lot to do with it,"
said Desjardins analyst Maher Yaghi, referring to the share
price move. "It's still a market where investors are searching
Yaghi said investors were pleased that Rogers expects growth
at its landline business - cable television and fixed-line
Internet - even as BCE Inc's Bell ramps up its Internet
protocol television service.
Rogers - once Canada's clear leader in wireless technology -
has struggled to match the market share expansion of BCE Inc and
Telus Corp in recent quarters, while its higher average
bills have also come under pressure.
In the final three months of 2012, subscriber numbers showed
some weakness but average bills and churn - the average
proportion of subscribers that cancel that service each month -
were stronger than expected, said Drew McReynolds, an analyst at
RBC Capital Markets.
The Toronto-based company, which also owns television
stations, magazines and sports teams, said fourth-quarter
adjusted net income jumped to C$455 million ($454.52 million),
or 88 Canadian cents a share, from C$350 million, or 66 Canadian
cents, a year earlier.
Analysts on average expected Rogers to earn 72 Canadian
cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Operating revenue rose to C$3.26 billion from C$3.16
billion, ahead of the C$3.19 billion average forecast.
Rogers expects a 2.5 percent to 4.5 percent improvement in
adjusted operating profit in 2013, pointing to its media
division as a likely drag.
NHL LOCKOUT LOWERS COSTS
Rogers owns the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team, and last
year paired up with BCE to buy a majority stake in Maple Leaf
Sports and Entertainment, the owner of the National Hockey
League's Toronto Maple Leafs and a stable of other sports
The media unit lost advertising revenue due to the
months-long NHL lockout but executives said that was more than
offset by not having to spend money to air the games. The labor
dispute was settled in January.
"Most importantly though, the NHL lockout was settled
shortly after the quarter ended, which is vital for the
franchise and in turn for Rogers sports broadcast properties and
our investment in MLSE," Tony Staffieri, the company's chief
financial officer, said on a conference call.
In wireless, the unit that typically accounts for almost
two-thirds Rogers' sales and profit, the company added 58,000
net postpaid subscribers, a closely watched metric given those
customers often sign multiyear contracts and typically pay more
each month than prepaid subscribers.
That was far less than the 143,834 additions reported by
rival BCE, which operates under the Bell brand, last week.
The third major operator, Telus, on Friday said
it added 123,000 postpaid customers.
An average Rogers wireless customer paid C$60.48 a month for
service, up from a year earlier. It said 69 percent of its
postpaid mobile phone customers use smartphones such as Apple
Inc's iPhone and BlackBerry devices.
Quarterly net income from continuing operations rose 62
percent to C$529 million, or C$1.02 per share, compared with
C$327 million, or 61 Canadian cents per share, in the year-ago