Astral says quarterly profit up sharply

October 31, 2012  |  Canadian Press  |  Comments

Astral Media Inc.’s profit grew in its the fiscal fourth quarter, a period during the summer when the Montreal-based television, radio and billboard company was working towards being taken over by BCE.

“I am very pleased with the solid performance delivered by our business units in fiscal 2012, particularly with the strong finish in the fourth quarter, consolidating the company’s 16th consecutive year of profitable growth,” said Astral CEO and president Ian Greenberg.

“We remain fully committed to maintain the same financial discipline that allowed the company to grow in Fiscal 2012 and to continue to invest in content and new products in order to offer the highest possible quality of products and services.”

Astral’s adjusted net earnings for the quarter, excluding the cost of the Bell-Astral transaction and tax rate changes, rose to $54.3 million – up 14% from $47 million a year earlier.

Net earnings including the transaction and tax-related items also rose but at a more subdued rate, rising 5% to $31.36 million from $29.78 million in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Its earnings per share increased to 96 cents from 85 cents per share on an adjusted basis and to 55 cents per share from 53 cents per share on a net earnings basis.

Revenue grew by 2% to $251.8 million from $247.6 million.

Astral noted that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has blocked its takeover by BCE, which has asked the federal cabinet to intervene.

Astral said it had $6.5 million in costs related to the transaction and will receive a $150 million break fee from BCE if the transaction doesn’t go ahead for regulatory reasons.

“There can be no assurance that the transaction will occur, or that it will occur on the terms and conditions currently contemplated,” Astral said in a news release.

Astral said the increase in net earnings and EPS were mainly due to the after-tax effect of such things as the Bell-Astral transaction costs, the impairment of broadcast licences and deferred tax expenses.

Revenues from its 25 specialty TV channels, including The Movie Network, Family and Disney Junior channels, were $140.4 million for the quarter, up 1% from $139.6 million in the same quarter in 2011.

With its 84 radio stations, that division had revenues of $84.1 million in the quarter, up 2% or $82.1 million in the same quarter last year.

Astral’s out-of-home division with its billboards and digital advertising had revenues of $27.2 million, up 6% from $25.7 million year-over-year.

Subscribers to its pay TV services including The Movie Network were 1.83 million as of Aug. 31, down 1% or 1.85 million in the same period in 2011.

For fiscal 2012, Astral had a slightly higher revenue of $1.021 billion versus revenue of $1.01 billion in fiscal 2011.

Earnings per share for fiscal 2012 were $3.64 cents compared with $3.30 for fiscal 2011.

Besides being Canada’s largest pay and specialty TV broadcaster, Astral is also the country’s largest radio company with 84 stations in 50 Canadian markets and its third-largest outdoor advertising company.

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