BCE, Rogers Carve-Up of Retailer Glentel Approved

Canada’s Competition Bureau has approved a transaction under which Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) and its national quadruple-play telecoms rival Rogers Communications will take 50% equity each in retailer Glentel (Canada), following the latter’s acquisition by BCE which is set for completion on 20 May. Glentel will continue to sell mobile products from both operators at its 494 retail locations across Canada (which are run under names including WirelessWave, Tbooth wireless, Wireless Etc and Target Mobile).

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article. 

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Bell Canada Service Revenues Climb 2.2% In Q4

Quadruple-play operator Bell Canada’s total revenues grew 2.6% year-on-year to CAD4.940 billion (USD3.946 billion) in Q4 2014 on 2.2% higher service revenues, reflecting a strong increase in wireless (Bell Mobility) turnover and positive overall fixed network division growth. Product revenues grew 6.8% over Q4 2013, reflecting more wireless device upgrades and increased business data equipment sales, while quarterly Bell Media revenues declined 3.9% y-o-y. Adjusted EBITDA in Q4 was up 2.2% to CAD1.730 billion, driven by increases of 10.6% in wireless and 2.0% in wireline operations, moderated by a 16.5% decline at Bell Media, due to higher costs for sports TV rights and content investments for Bell’s new ‘CraveTV’ on-demand video streaming service. Bell’s consolidated EBITDA margin in Q4 2014 was 35.0% compared to 35.2% in Q4 2013.

For full-year 2014 Bell Canada’s operating revenues and EBITDA were up 3.5% and 3.7%, respectively, to CAD18.734 billion and CAD7.066 billion, driven by the increased contribution of wireless, TV, internet and media. Total revenues generated by these four service areas grew by CAD814 million, or 5.5%, in 2014. Bell Canada’s CAPEX for the year increased by 4.7% to CAD3.142 billion, supporting the continued deployment of broadband fibre to homes and businesses to expand its IPTV footprint and enable faster internet speeds; the continuing rollout of 4G LTE mobile service in markets across Canada; higher spending on network capacity to support increasing internet bandwidth usage and mobile data consumption; and enhancements to customer service delivery systems.

In FY 2014 Bell’s wireless revenues increased 6.7% to CAD6.241 billion underpinned by annual service revenues growing 6.4% to CAD5.705 billion and product revenues up 11.8% to CAD483 million, while adjusted wireless EBITDA grew 9.6% to CAD2.564 billion in the year. Total Bell mobile customers grew 2.5% to 7,970,702, and post-paid customers represented 88% of this total at the end of 2014, compared to 86% one year earlier. Including sister company Bell Aliant, total wireless customers grew 2.4% in 2014 to 8,118,628. Blended ARPU increased 5.5% to CAD61.12 in Q4 2014, representing the 20th consecutive quarter of year-on-year improvement. Growth was driven by accelerating data usage on Bell’s expanding 4G LTE network (reaching 86% of the population) as the proportion of smartphone users continued to increase, and the favourable impact of two-year contract pricing introduced in 2013 following implementation of the federal Wireless Code of Conduct.

Bell Canada reported 2,287,489 fixed broadband internet customers at the end of 2014, a 4.7% increase over 2013. Including Bell Aliant, the Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) group had 3,297,026 fixed broadband subscribers at that date, up 5.1% y-o-y. Wireline data revenues were up 4.0% to CAD1.573 billion in Q4 2014, the result of combined internet and TV service revenue growth of 5.1%, and growth in IP broadband connectivity and business service solutions of approximately 3% and 10%, respectively. The Bell ‘Fibe TV’ IPTV footprint reached more than five million households at the end of 2014, compared to approximately 4.3 million at the end of 2013. Including Bell Aliant’s ‘FibreOP’ service area, BCE’s total IPTV footprint now covers six million homes, up from 5.1 million at end-2013.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

BCE, Rogers to Jointly Own Glentel Retail Network

Rogers Communications has reached an agreement with rival telecoms group BCE under which the two companies will jointly own Glentel’s Canadian retail distribution outlets once the pending acquisition of Glentel by BCE is completed. As part of the agreement, Rogers will withdraw its recently filed court application for an injunction against the takeover, pending closure of the agreement with BCE. A press release indicated that the deal ensures customers across Canada will continue to be offered wireless products and services from a choice of telecoms network operator at Glentel’s 494 retail locations across Canada (which are run under names including WirelessWave, Tbooth wireless, Wireless Etc and Target Mobile).

Thank to TeleGeography for the article. 

Crave Sign-Ups Get Their Four-Dollar Fix on 11 December

Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) has announced that its Bell Media division’s new subscription video content service ‘CraveTV’ (originally codenamed ‘Latte’) will launch on 11 December, boasting over 10,000 hours of TV content, and costing CAD4 (USD3.5) per month. Available online and on iOS- and Android-based mobile phones and tablets as an authenticated streaming service, customers must also subscribe to either Bell Fibe TV, Bell Aliant FibreOp TV, Bell Satellite TV, Telus Optik TV or Eastlink cable. Additional pay-TV companies will offer the service in due course, while Bell will also extend CraveTV onto other platforms and operating systems including Windows 8, Windows Phone, Samsung Smart TV, Xbox console and Chromecast.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

The Good, the Bandwidth and the Ugly: BCE Buys Phone Retailer, Passes 1m FibreOP Premises, Hit With Civil Suit

Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) has agreed a CAD594 million (USD520 million) cash-and-stock deal to buy independent cellphone retailer Glentel, the Globe & Mail reports. The deal will give Bell ownership of Glentel’s roughly 500 own-brand retail locations in Canada, as well as kiosks at Target Canada and Costco under the names ‘Wirelesswave’, ‘Tbooth wireless’ and ‘Wireless etc’. BCE previously bought another phone retail chain, The Source, with around 750 locations, in 2009. The Source now exclusively sells BCE-owned wireless products, but the Glentel outlets will continue to distribute rivals’ products, at least for the time being.

In other news, BCE’s Atlantic Canada-based division Bell Aliant has announced reaching its end-year target of making its fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) ‘FibreOP’ broadband services available to one million homes and businesses, with the milestone deployment of the millionth premise passed achieved in Oromocto, New Brunswick, it said in a press release. Bell Aliant simultaneously announced a free FibreOP internet speed upgrade – the third in the last two years. On 7 December 2014 the 50Mbps/30Mbps (down/upload) package is raised to 75Mbps/30Mbps and the 80Mbps/30Mbps package jumps to 150Mbps/30Mbps, while the top speeds available are boosted significantly from 250Mbps/30Mbps to 400Mbps/350Mbps. In addition, in a recently announced partnership with its sister Bell Media division, Bell Aliant will also offer a new subscription on-demand video streaming service, code named ‘Project Latte’ focusing on premium TV content.

Elsewhere, CBC News reports that an Ontario court has certified class action lawsuits against Bell and rival Telus over the practice of rounding up calls to the farthest minute whilst not immediately disclosing the method to certain customers. The class actions were certified on behalf of Canadian residents who subscribed to Bell services and were billed by the minute between August 2006 and October 2009, and Ontario residents who subscribed to Telus services and were billed per-minute between August 2006 and July 2010.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

BCE Completes Bell Aliant Delisting, Integration

Canada’s largest telecoms group BCE has announced the successful completion of its privatisation of Atlantic Canadian subsidiary Bell Aliant and its integration into BCE’s nationwide Bell Canada operations. Bell Aliant’s common shares were delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) on 31 October 2014 and Bell Aliant preferred shares were delisted from the TSX on 3 November 2014. In July BCE announced it would delist Bell Aliant by acquiring the interests of public minority shareholders for a consideration of approximately CAD3.95 billion (USD3.50 billion), and the transaction has now formally closed as BCE completed a compulsory acquisition effective 31 October 2014 to take 100% of Bell Aliant common shares. Additionally, as a result of the amalgamation of Bell Aliant Preferred Equity Inc (Prefco), which was approved by preferred shareholders on 31 October and became effective 1 November, Prefco became a wholly owned subsidiary of Bell Aliant.

BCE also announced Dan McKeen as its new Atlantic regional leader and the appointment of former Bell Aliant director Robert Dexter to the BCE Board of Directors.

BCE plans to invest CAD2.1 billion across all four Atlantic provinces – New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island – over the next five years in fixed and wireless networks for consumers and business customers. This includes continued deployment of mobile 4G LTE services throughout the region, with more than 100 small towns and rural locations to benefit from enhanced 4G mobile services by the end of 2015.

‘Bringing Bell Aliant fully into the national BCE organisation enhances our broadband growth and leadership strategy by aligning network capital investments, broadening our national service capabilities, and increasing our operational efficiency,’ BCE announced.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

BCE Concludes Initial Phase Of Aliant Share Offer; 100% Buyout Expected By End-October

Telecoms group Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) and its subsidiary Bell Aliant yesterday announced in a press release the initial results of BCE’s offer to purchase all Bell Aliant’s outstanding publicly held common shares and to exchange all outstanding Bell Aliant preferred shares. BCE revealed in July that it would buy out all minority shareholders in Bell Aliant for a total consideration of approximately CAD3.95 billion (USD3.68 billion); sellers will receive cash and BCE common equity. 81.2% and 72.7% of the respective outstanding publicly held common and preferred shares had been validly tendered to BCE’s offer by 19 September, and BCE expects to pay for these common shares on 24 September, while on the same day it expects to issue the new BCE preferred shares which will commence trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange the following day. As all conditions of the common/preferred share offers have been satisfied, and all regulatory approvals have been received, BCE expects to take Bell Aliant private on or around 31 October 2014.

Additionally, BCE has extended the common share offer, in accordance with its terms, to 2 October 2014 in order to enable holders of common shares who have not yet tendered to deposit their shares to the offer prior to the completion of the privatisation (delisting) of Bell Aliant. BCE expects to pay for all such shares tendered in the extension period by 7 October 2014.

If at least 90% of the publicly held common shares of Bell Aliant are tendered to the offer following its extension, BCE intends to acquire the balance of the common shares not tendered through compulsory acquisition on or around 31 October. If less than 90% of the publicly held common shares are tendered by 2 October BCE intends to use its voting power to force through the acquisitions of the remaining common shares at a meeting of Bell Aliant shareholders on 31 October (while the same applies to all remaining preferred shares).

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.