Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bell Canada's Q4 Revenue Grew 4.8%, FTTH Planned for Montreal, Toronto

BCE (Bell Canada's) operating revenues increased by 4.8% during Q4 2009 to $3,982 million, as higher revenues from the acquisitions of The Source and the remaining 50% of the equity of Virgin Mobile Canada (Virgin) not already owned by Bell and growth in TV and wireless data revenues more than offset declines in local and access, long distance, and wireline data revenues. For the full year, Bell's operating revenues were $15,020 million, an increase of 1.0% compared to 2008.

Bell's operating income increased by 10.0% to $572 million this quarter and by 13.5% to $2,432 million for the full year due to higher EBITDA and lower restructuring and other costs. Bell's EBITDA grew by 1.0% to $1,395 million this quarter and by 1.4% to $5,719 million for the full year as higher revenues and cost reductions more than offset the impact of higher pension expense and increases in new wireless subscriber activation expense. Bell's EBITDA margin decreased by 1.4 percentage points to 35.0% this quarter but increased 0.2 percentage points to 38.1% on a full-year basis. Before pension costs, Bell's EBITDA growth was 3.5% this quarter and 3.0% for the full year.

"The Bell team's strong execution of our service-focused strategy and ongoing cost discipline across our business delivered strong Q4 results and enabled us to meet or beat all of our increased financial targets for 2009," said George Cope, President and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada.

Bell also announced plans to deploy Fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) in Quebec City and new housing developments in Ontario and Quebec, the launch of its enhanced Bell Fibe Internet service this week, and the introduction of IPTV later in 2010. Bell will begin its three-year plan to deploy high speed Fibre-to-the-home across the Quebec City region in 2010 using aerial" infrastructure - above-ground wiring on utility poles.

Bell also announced today it will deploy FTTH in all new urban and suburban housing developments in Ontario and Quebec beginning in the second half of 2010. This is in addition to the company's deployment of Fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) to MDUs (multi-dwelling units) already under way. Bell's FTTB initiative will deliver 60 Mbps service to approximately 1,600 condominiums and apartment buildings in Ontario and Quebec by the end of 2012.

Bell will complete its accelerated build of Fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) in Toronto and Montreal this quarter. The company will have passed 1.8 million homes with advanced VDSL2 capability by the end of the quarter, and 100% of the company's FTTN network will be VDSL2 capable by the end of 2010. Bell Fibe is a new high-speed Internet service announced this week for Bell customers in Montreal and Toronto that takes full advantage of these fibre advancements, offering enhanced download speeds of up to 25 Mbps and the fastest upload speeds available in the market - up to 7 Mbps.

Some other highlights:

  • The Bell Wireless segment had record Q4 gross activations of 523,000 new subscribers, or 11.3% more than the same period last year, even though its new HSPA network was only launched in November.

  • Total net activations increased by 39.3% to 163,000. Postpaid net activations increased by 37.5% to 110,000 and prepaid net activations increased by 43.2% to 53,000.

  • Bell Wireless operating revenues increased by 5.7% this quarter with service revenues increasing by 2.1% and product revenues increasing by 43.3%. Bell Wireless operating income and EBITDA decreased by 0.7% and 2.0% respectively.

  • Blended ARPU decreased by $1.48 to $51.08 year-over-year due to the impact of economic pressures on customer usage, competitive moves and lower roaming revenues, which more than offset data revenue growth of 32%.

  • In the Bell Wireline segment, retail residential NAS losses improved for a ninth consecutive quarter but total Residential NAS declined by 79,000 this quarter, or by 11.3% more than last year, due to reduced demand for wholesale local service.

  • Business NAS declined by 29,000 this quarter, or 3.3% fewer than last year. TV subscribers increased by 41,000 and high-speed Internet subscribers increased by 8,000 this quarter.

  • Bell Wireline operating revenues increased by 4.2% as TV and equipment and other revenue growth more than offset declines in local and access, long distance and data revenues.

  • Equipment and other revenues more than doubled this quarter as a result of the acquisition of The Source. Bell Wireline operating income increased by 23.9% as a result of higher EBITDA and lower restructuring and other costs.

  • With the completion of the HSPA network build, the amount of capital Bell invested this quarter decreased to $640 million, or by 25.1%, compared to the same period last year.

  • Capital expenditures supported Bell's strategic imperatives with focused investment on enhancing its wireless networks and the continuing expansion of the wireline broadband network, including the FTTN and FTTB programs.

  • At year end, the FTTN network reached more than 2.9 million homes.

  • For the full year, Bell invested $2,390 million of capital, or 2.8% less than 2008 and Bell's capital intensity was 15.9%.

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