Rogers Communications Inc. said fourth-quarter revenue fell nearly 7 per cent, to $3.7 billion (US$2.9 billion), compared with a year earlier, narrowly missing average analyst expectations.

The Toronto-based company added 114,000 new postpaid wireless subscribers. Average revenue per user fell 9 per cent to $50.02. With stay-at-home orders in place and widespread vaccine availability months away, few people are traveling -- meaning less roaming revenue.

Rogers’ profitability dropped slightly. Adjusted earnings were 99 Canadian cents per share, which was better than the average analyst estimate of 97 cents, but was down from $1 a year earlier, only a few months before the first wave of Covid-19 struck.

The media business took a strong hit because of a decline in live sports broadcasting with the delayed start to the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association seasons. Rogers Media revenue decreased 23 per cent from a year earlier, with analysts saying the decline was offset by lower programming costs and efficiencies.

Key events to keep an eye on in 2021 include the expansion of 5G coverage in Canada, the gradual resumption of regular sports programming and the planned June government auction of 3,500-megahertz spectrum, which are radio waves critical to the expansion of 5G technology.

Rogers didn’t provide financial guidance for the year as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic “could remain material in 2021,” the company said in a news release.

“Despite the spike in the second wave across the country and a new series of restrictions that have been rolled out and expanded in December in certain provinces, we saw continued improvement in many areas of our business,” Chief Executive Officer Joe Natale said on a call Thursday with analysts. “Our long-term vision has not wavered. We are focused on investing in core assets to generate long-term value for our shareholders.”

Bloomberg Intelligence analyst John Butler said in a December note that Rogers’ wireless revenue could rise in the latter part of 2021. “The path to higher growth is likely to be back-end-loaded in 2021, with a return to normalcy unlikely until” the second half of the year, he wrote.

Canadian telecommunications rivals BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. are expected to report earnings in the next two weeks.

Market Reaction

  • Rogers shares were down 1.8 per cent, to $60.83, at 9:33 a.m.