BCE Inc.’s shares rose less than one per cent after Canada’s largest telecom provider by market value reported its first quarterly revenue growth since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more than a year ago.

The company said its first-quarter revenue rose 1.2 per cent from a year earlier, to $5.7 billion (US$4.6 billion), beating analysts’ average estimates of $5.60 billion.

Key Insights

  • The Montreal-based company added 32,925 new postpaid mobile phone subscribers. Average billing per mobile user fell 3.4 per cent to $70.34.
  • “BCE is coming off weak 2020 growth that likely lingered in 1Q, as high-margin roaming fees fell due to restricted travel and immigration,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst John Butler said.
  • BCE’s profitability beat expectations. Adjusted earnings were 78 Canadian cents per share, which was better than the average analyst estimate of 73 cents but 1.3 per cent lower than a year ago.
  • “Keeping the country connected and informed while building momentum in a recovering economy, Bell delivered continued sequential quarterly improvement in our results, including positive revenue and adjusted Ebitda growth for the first time since the beginning of the COVID crisis,” Chief Executive Officer Mirko Bibic said in a written statement.
  • BCE made a $20 billion acquisition offer for Shaw Communications Inc. in February in a bidding war with rival Rogers Communications Inc. but later backed off after it couldn’t reach an agreement with Shaw on some conditions.
  • “We looked at it and we decided not to proceed,” Bibic said Thursday during a call with analysts. “At this point it’s not our deal.”
  • The earnings report comes after Canada’s telecom regulator ruled that large wireless carriers, including Rogers and BCE, have to resell access to their networks to smaller players.
  • The report is BCE’s last before it competes with other carriers in a June spectrum auction that is key to the company’s ability to build out its 5G capacity.
  • Shares of BCE were up 0.95 per cent at 9:36 a.m. in Toronto; they were up six per cent year-to-date through Wednesday’s close.

BNN Bloomberg is owned by Bell Media, which is a division of BCE.