Rogers could take a look at ‘selective’ Astral assets

October 24, 2012  |  Canadian Press  |  Comments

Rogers Communications could take a look at “selective” assets of Astral Media if the specialty and radio company puts up a “For Sale” again after its sale to Bell Media was rejected.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission recently nixed a $3.4-billion takeover deal by Bell Media for Astral, saying it wasn’t in the best interests of Canadians.

Bell has asked federal cabinet to tell the CRTC to properly apply its own rules and let the transaction go ahead, but Ottawa has suggested it has little appetite to do so.

“Obviously, we know the Astral assets very well,” Rogers’ executive Keith Pelley said Wednesday after Rogers reported third-quarter results that beat analysts estimates.

“If they strategically fit, I think that is also important. So they need to be selective and strategic, then at that particular time we would evaluate them,” Pelley told reporters on a conference call.

Rogers told CRTC hearings that it wouldn’t support Bell’s deal to buy Astral unless it divested specialty English TV assets such as The Movie Network and HBO Canada. At that time, Rogers would only say it might be interested in those assets.

But Pelly said Rogers has a number of other issues to focus on for now.

Rogers shows slight increase in Q3 revenue, profit
Bell “failed to persuade” CRTC on Astral deal

Rogers is honing in on a trend that’s been driving growth for the telecom company – consumers buying smartphones that are usually on lucrative three-year contracts and use data to stream video and send emails, which adds revenues for Rogers.

Toronto-based Rogers added 76,000 net postpaid customers who bought iPhones, BlackBerrys or Android smartphones in its third quarter versus 74,000 in the same quarter in 2011, CEO Nadir Mohamed said.

“We’re attracting and retaining our highest lifetime value customers, which is squarely on strategy and the most significant driver of our top line (revenue),” Mohamed told financial analysts earlier in the day.

The percentage of postpaid subscribers using smartphones rose to 65%, up from 52% in the same quarter last year for Rogers, which is Canada’s biggest wireless provider.

Rogers’ total cable TV subscribers were just more than 2.2 million, down from 2.3 million.

Rob Bruce, Rogers’ president, communications, said his company lost customers in the quarter due Bell’s internet protocol television service and its promotions.

But Bruce also said some customers gave up their cable TV in favour of their internet subscription.

“To be fair, cord shaving is fairly minimal at this point,” Bruce said. “If you’re under 45, you’re really making the decision on the strength of the internet.”

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