BCE Earnings Call Insights: IPTV Numbers and EBITDA Improvement

BCE(NYSE:BCE) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

IPTV Nembers

Greg MacDonald – Macquarie Capital: So I’m going to say, a really good IPTV numbers at 47,500, but we are seeing a trend here, right? The IPTV numbers are getting better; the satellite numbers seem to be getting worse. I want to try and ask the question to put the context of the Internet subscribers in context here, 2,000 was lower than I would’ve expected given that strong IPTV number. I know you said 13,000 in the footprint. So, maybe you can just give us some color on how much of that satellite loss is going to Fibe customers versus the competition to try and help us understand what’s happening on the Internet side, and in particular on that Internet side, is there a mix issue here? Is it more a business loss versus consumer or in-market on the Fibe side versus out-market, what’s happening there to hold that number back?

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George Cope – President and CEO: First of all, we are absolutely thrilled momentum that we’ve got on Fibe TV. In terms of satellite convergence, interesting enough, consistent with what we’ve said over last year, about 15% of our net adds on Fibe TV came from our satellite base, so the remaining 85% obviously came from either market growth or our competitors in terms of Fibe TV. In terms of Internet, I absolutely – we’re pleased actually with the ’13 in IPTV footprint. We are RGU positive in our IPTV footprint now NAS versus Fibe and Internet, we’re positive there, so it’s about expanding the footprint. I would say though, it is a good question, one area we definitely have seen an impact on the wholesales side, we believe the significant market share had moved to the cable operators over the last 12 months, because of some regulatory pricing that put cable regulatory wholesales rates well below Bell’s wholesale rates and so the wholesale market moved to that side. The recent regulatory decision, we’ll have to see how it migrates, lowers our price, puts (us) more in a – a more competitive position, I guess, is what I would say. So that may have some impact, but there is no doubt that we’ve had negative net adds on the wholesale side over the last 15 months, and my only assumptions would be that those wholesale probably went to the cable side. They are much lower ARPU obviously but they accounted net and that’s probably why our revenue growth was so strong in Internet and Fibe TV versus our sub-growth. It’s because of the wholesale deterioration we’re seeing. So that is actually a contributing factor. So I’m glad you asked the question.

EBITDA Improvement

Maher Yaghi – Desjardins Bank: George, I wanted to ask you about the EBITDA improvement in terms of year-on-year trends. You talked about it in the guidance when you gave the guidance earlier this year. We did see a turnaround in terms of year-on-year decline. Do you still continue to expect that improvement to be sustainable throughout the year? In terms of the business markets on the Wireline, nice positive surprise though. Do you believe this improvement will continue, or this was due to one-time events in the quarter that helped it be strong like that?

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George Cope – President and CEO: Just to the second part of the question, can you repeat that?

Maher Yaghi – Desjardins Bank: There the business markets, IP…

George Cope – President and CEO: Sure. I’d be happy to. Sorry, so first of all, on the Wireline side, yeah, what we said at the Investor Day is still our view. We expect over the year that our Wireline decline will be less than the year before as we’ve said and the margins you saw, I mean frankly without the one-time CRTC catch-up last year, we were really, really pleased with the EBITDA margin on Wireline. So that strategy continues to be mapping where we want to see it and on the business side, you are right, it was, we’re not out of the woods there in terms of growth because we still need to see employment growth on everyone on the line, of course knows that’s a big challenge nationally and we’re obviously impacted by that given that companies are growing employment, we’re growing revenue but the underlying trends in BBM was certainly better in the first quarter than we had seen recently and it’s early in the year, but certainly probably there is one little surprise even internally is probably on that side of the shop.