(Updates with closing share price in sixth paragraph.)
Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Rogers Communications Inc., Canada’s largest wireless carrier, said fourth-quarter earnings rose 8.3 percent, helped by wireless revenue as customers spent more time on smartphones.
Net income climbed to C$327 million ($328 million), or 61 cents a share, from C$302 million, or 50 cents, a year earlier, the Toronto-based company said today in a statement. Rogers also said it will buy back as much as C$1 billion of stock and raised its annualized dividend by 11 percent to C$1.58 a share.
Chief Executive Officer Nadir Mohamed is trying to stay ahead of BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. by touting Rogers’s network speed while also promoting its no-frills Chatr business. BCE and Telus posted quarterly earnings that trailed estimates as they spent more subsidizing expensive smartphones to avoid losing subscribers to Canada’s new carriers that offer mainly cheaper, contract-free plans.
Wireless competition remains “intense,” Mohamed said on a conference call with analysts. Even though Rogers said it sold more smartphones, including Apple Inc.’s iPhone, last quarter, Rogers’s churn -- or defection rate for customers on contract -- increased to 1.49 percent last quarter from 1.35 percent a year earlier.
“We have some work to do” reducing churn, Rob Bruce, the head of Rogers’s wireless business, said on the call.
Rogers advanced 1 percent to C$38.15 at the close in Toronto. The shares have dropped 2.8 percent this year.
Sales rose 1.2 percent to C$3.18 billion, missing the C$3.2 billion average projection by analysts in a Bloomberg survey.
During the quarter, Rogers added 42,000 subscribers on contracts, the long-term customers who typically buy a smartphone and spend more on data. That was down from 49,000 a year earlier and missed the 85,000 estimate of Maher Yaghi, a Desjardins Securities analyst in Montreal. He rates Rogers shares “hold.” On that basis, BCE added 131,986 subscribers last quarter and Telus gained 148,000.
“Rogers continues to underperform Telus and Bell in wireless subscriber additions however the company has been able to contain costs in both its wireless and cable business to grow earnings in the face of flat revenue,” Yaghi said in a research note.
Rogers’s average monthly revenue from both contract and prepaid customers, who usually opt for cheaper calling plans, was C$58.82, down from C$61.31 a year earlier and also missing Yaghi’s C$59.20 estimate.
The annualized dividend rises to C$1.58 from C$1.42, starting with a quarterly payout of 39.5 cents on April 2 to shares of record March 19.
Per-share profit excluding some items rose to 70 cents, exceeding the 65 cent average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
(Rogers held a conference call on the results today. To listen to a replay, go to RCI/B CN <Equity> CWP <GO> and click on the link under Investor Relations.)
--Editors: Ville Heiskanen, Jeffrey Tannenbaum
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