Rogers Communications Class B Earnings Call Insights:Churn & Retention Cost, High-end Smartphones

Rogers Communications Class B (NYSE:RCI) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Churn & Retention Cost

Jeff Fan – Scotia Bank: My question is on your churn and retention cost. I’m trying to understand how you balance the two. You show very good churn improvement year-over-year on the postpaid side, but your retention cost seems to be a lot higher than at least what we were looking for. So, it seems like on the one hand, yes churn did come down, but it did cost you quite a bit to bring that churn number down. So can you help us understand a bit of how you managed this and what we should expect going forward?

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Rob Bruce – President, Communications: I think the thing that will be helpful is that when we look at retention cost. I mean, retention cost really represents retention cost as well as headset upgrades. Quarter like Q1 where we had intensely low prices on smartphones it drives a lot more handset upgrade activity. So, if we sort of just disaggregate it, the retention costs for the quarter which were about $250 million, about $210 million of that was a combination of hardware and commission on hardware upgrades. So that was the vast majority and that is why the numbers look so high. The remainder of the activity that was really focused on retentions would be at normal levels.

Jeff Fan – Scotia Bank: So maybe, maybe just a quick follow up, Bob you alluded to the intensely low prices on smartphones. Was there something in the quarter and how would you characterize the quarter on what drove those low prices in the industry?

Rob Bruce – President, Communications: It was a fairly active quarter across the board. I think I would characterize it as being almost a continuation of a very intensely competitive Q4, aggressive device promotions, $0 iPhone 4, $99 iPhone 5, $0 Samsung Galaxy 3 very much like what we saw in Q4. We also saw some pressure on some premium brand pricing premium brand pricing on non-premium smartphones TELUS $43,400 megabit plans and plans in that mid-range that were highly aggressive and we also saw some intense activity with iPhone 5 on $45 MSF plan. So, again, very aggressive and very attractive handset prices. So, the second we put those out there as an industry at retail and to acquire new customers of course we are obligated to match those kind of prices for our existing customers which derives a fair number of customers to the stores to actually upgrade sooner than they would normally do, Jeff.

High-end Smartphones

Glen Campbell – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch: Just to follow-up on Jeff’s line of questioning. Should we regard this new price or the low Q1 pricing is sort of the new normal in the high-end smartphones. Maybe just stepping back a little bit is there anything that you can see that would suggest that smartphone customers when they upgrade are taking anything less than the heaviest subsea available or waiting any longer than absolutely necessary to upgrade. I am just trying to get a sense of what we should look for, for the rest of the year?

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Rob Bruce – President, Communications: Just to follow-on. I think the (indiscernible) would be a stretch. Q4 for sure was abnormally competitive and it seem to sort of trickle back into Q1 but at this point it is really a two quarter phenomena. I think these devices are valuable. We are very committed to try to make sure that the customers are aware that the value that are in those devices. However, at the same time, I mean, we’re not seeing any movement in trends in terms of the patience of the customers to wait even longer to upgrade nor are we seeing any rapid decline in the subsidies that are required by the manufacturers to actually bring these products to market at reasonable prices. So, those are the two things that I think I would factor in to your thinking as you model this out going forward?

Glen Campbell – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch: Q2 so far fairly similar to Q1?

Rob Bruce – President, Communications: It’s early days. So, I think the nature of the quarter is a little bit different from the outset without saying much more than that?

A Closer Look: Rogers Communications Earnings Cheat Sheet>>