* Adj earnings C$0.65/shr vs C$0.62/shr year earlier
* Net wireless postpaid subscribers rise by 143,834
* BCE sees revenue growth slowing in 2013 to 2 pct at most
* Raises dividend 2.6 pct
By Allison Martell and Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, Feb 7 BCE Inc, parent of Bell
Canada and the country's biggest telecom provider, reported
higher quarterly profit and raised its dividend on Thursday as
its wireless and media divisions boosted the bottom line.
But the company, which together with Rogers Communications
Inc and Telus Corp dominates the Canadian
market, said it expected revenue to grow by 2 percent at the
most this year, compared with 3 percent growth in 2012. It said
it sees earnings for 2013 rising slightly.
For the final quarter of 2012, profit was in line with
expectations as strong performances in wireless and media more
than offset Bell Canada's weaker wireline business.
BCE's shares were little changed on Thursday morning,
slipping 0.02 percent at C$44.51 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Canaccord Genuity analyst Dvai Ghose described the wireless
results as very strong and said they indicate that Bell is
taking market share from Rogers.
Apple Inc's iPhone and smartphones running Google
Inc's Android operating system sold well through the
holiday shopping season, BCE said.
Net postpaid subscribers rose by nearly 144,000, 9 percent
more than the net gains in the same quarter last year. Postpaid
subscriber figures are watched closely because those customers,
who often sign multiyear contracts, typically pay more each
month than prepaid subscribers.
Churn, the average proportion of subscribers that cancel
their service each month, improved to 1.3 percent for postpaid
customers, from 1.5 percent a year earlier. Average revenue per
user, or ARPU, rose 4.1 percent to C$56.72 a month.
"We accomplished a lot in 2012," Chief Executive George Cope
said at the company's investor day in Toronto. "We believe this
year we will lead the industry in postpaid net adds, wireless
ARPU growth and EBITDA when all the numbers are in for the
MEDIA EARNINGS SOAR
In the smaller media division, earnings before interest,
taxes, depreciation and amortization jumped 32.3 percent, helped
in part by higher revenue from subscriber fees.
The company said the National Hockey League's player
lockout, which shut down Canada's favorite professional league
for months, was the biggest factor behind a 6.5 percent drop in
the division's operating costs.
Advertising revenue slipped only 1 percent as marketing
dollars shifted to BCE's non-sports channels.
The company said it may update its financial outlook in the
event that its proposed acquisition of Astral Media Inc
BCE is still waiting for regulators to rule on its C$3
billion bid for Astral, its biggest content provider. Broadcast
regulators blocked the deal in the fall, but the companies filed
a revised application in November.
BY THE NUMBERS
Fourth-quarter net earnings rose to C$708 million ($710
million), or 91 Canadian cents a share, from C$486 million, or
62 Canadian cents, a year earlier.
The bottom line benefited from a C$248 million noncash gain
related to a joint venture with Rogers to bring wireless
broadband to remote communities and rural areas.
Excluding that gain and other items, adjusted earnings rose
to 65 Canadian cents a share, from 62 Canadian cents a year
earlier. Analysts, on average, had expected earnings of 66
Canadian cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
For 2013, BCE expects adjusted earnings per share of from
C$2.97 to C$3.03. Restated to reflect a new pension accounting
standard, adjusted earnings in 2012 were C$2.96 a share.
BCE's operating revenue dipped to C$5.16 billion from C$5.17
billion a year earlier. Analysts had expected C$5.17 billion.
The company raised its quarterly dividend 2.6 percent to
C$0.5825 a share, over and above a 4.6 percent increase
announced in August.