Rogers hikes dividend but CEO says priority remains spending on company's future - InfoNews

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Rogers hikes dividend but CEO says priority remains spending on company's future

A man speaks on a mobile phone outside Rogers Communications Inc.'s annual general meeting of shareholders in Toronto on April 22, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
January 24, 2019 - 9:34 AM

TORONTO - Rogers Communications Inc. raised its dividend for the first time since 2015 on Thursday as it reported a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit, but CEO Joe Natale told analysts that it may be awhile before the payout goes up further.

"The No. 1 priority for our cash is investing in the future of our business," Natale said in a conference call.

"We will look at dividend increases, you know, as we deem appropriate but not on some sort of annual increase cycle."

The wireless, cable, internet and media company also said Thursday it expects to spend between $2.85 billion and $3.05 billion on capital projects in 2019, up at least $160 million from last year when capital spending totalled $2.79 billion.

Natale said the strength of its 2018 results gave Rogers confidence to increase both its capital budget and its quarterly dividend — which paid out a total of $988 million to shareholders last year.

Raising the quarterly dividend by two cents to 50 cents per share.

The increase came as Rogers announced it earned $502 million or 97 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Dec. 31. That's up from $499 million or 97 cents per share in the same period a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, Rogers said it earned $585 million or $1.13 per diluted share for its most recent quarter, up from an adjusted profit of $525 million or $1.02 per diluted share a year earlier.

Revenue totalled $3.94 billion, up from $3.73 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017, when Rogers experienced lost sales during the important pre-Christmas period due to system malfunctions.

Analysts on average expected Rogers to have adjusted earnings of $1.08 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon. Revenue was anticipated to come in at nearly $3.88 billion for the quarter ended Dec. 31.

The company said revenue growth during the quarter ended Dec. 31 was primarily driven by its wireless operations, which added 112,000 net subscribers during the quarter to end the year at 10.8 million wireless subscribers.

Average monthly revenue per wireless user also increased to $65.12 from $63.46 a year earlier.

However, Natale said the company's wireline segment — which include residential cable and internet services — also performed well despite intense price discounting from its major rival, which is Bell Canada.

"There's a continued demand for broadband data — to the tune of about 30 per cent growth per year. So it's very strong demand across the board," Natale said.

"Our goal is to continue to leverage the power of Ignite (the company's latest internet and TV services) to offer our customers the choice and help them manage the whole home around that."

Rogers is the first of Canada's three big national wireless carriers to report its 2018 fourth-quarter and year-end results. BCE and Telus are to issue their reports in early February.

Last week, Shaw Communications Inc. — Western Canada's largest cable company and owner of Freedom Mobile, which operates in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. — beat analyst estimates with a nearly 70 per cent increase in its first-quarter profit.

Companies in this story: (TSX:RCI.B, TSX:BCE, TSX:T, TSX:SJR.B)

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had the wrong year for 2017 fourth-quarter's revenue which was $3.73 billion.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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