Canada’s largest telecoms company, BCE, has released results for the fourth quarter and full year 2003, in line with expectations. For the quarter, profit from continuing operations fell from CAD793 million at the end of 2002 to CAD458 million (USD342 million) a year later, while sales also slipped 2.7% to CAD4.91 billion. The operator attributed the decline to low revenues from its Enterprise and Wholesale businesses, which it has hinted at selling sometime in 2004. By contrast, its consumer unit posted strong results. For the full year 2003 total revenue stood at CAD19.1 billion, down marginally from CAD19.2 billion previously, while EBITDA grew from CAD7.36 billion to CAD7.43 billion and operating income rose to CAD4.1 billion from CAD3.4 billion.
During 2003 BCE added 514,000 new cellular and PCS subscribers to its Bell Mobility wireless division, 189,000 of which were signed up in the fourth quarter, taking its total mobile customer base to 4.41 million at the end of the year. DSL subscribers to its fixed line unit Bell Canada increased by 372,000 in the year (91,000 in the fourth quarter) to 1.48 million, while Bell ExpressVu, its satellite pay-TV service, attracted 83,000 new users in 2003 to lift the total to 1.39 million.
Bell Mobility has been faced with increasing competition in the mobile market from the likes of Rogers Wireless, Telus Mobility and Microcell, although at the end of 2002 it had managed to hold on to its number one spot with 38% of the market. The fixed line market is a different story, however; despite being fully opened up to competition in 1997, Bell Canada still dominates the sector with 57% of the market at the end of 2002. The local market is the least developed, with BCE’s competitors accounting for just 1.5% of all main lines in service.
As well as Bell Mobility, Bell ExpressVu and Bell Canada, BCE also operates Bell Nexxia, which offers a comprehensive service to national business customers as well as operating a state-of-the-art IP broadband network. Multimedia company Bell Globemedia includes CTV, newspapers The Globe and Mail, Bell Globemedia Interactive, and BCE Emergis.