Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) reported that its operating revenue was up 3.0% in Q4 2018 to CAD6.215 billion (USD4.680 billion), driven by a 1.5% increase in service revenue to CAD5.231 billion that reflected year-on-year growth for all Bell operating segments. Product revenue increased 11.3% to CAD984 million, the result of a higher sales mix of premium smartphones and stronger data equipment sales to large business customers. Adjusted EBITDA grew 2.8% to CAD2.394 billion in October-December 2018, driven by y-o-y increases of 5.1% at Bell Wireless, 1.3% at Bell Wireline and 2.9% at Bell Media. BCE’s consolidated adjusted EBITDA margin decreased slightly to 38.5% from 38.6% in Q4 2017, the result of strong growth in lower-margin wireline and wireless (e.g. via the new Lucky Mobile budget mobile brand) product revenue.
BCE invested CAD974 million CAPEX in Q4, compared to CAD1.100 billion a year earlier, bringing total CAPEX for full-year 2018 to CAD3.971 billion, down 1.6% from FY17; spending focused on expanding the fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) footprint to more homes and businesses; expansion of the LTE-A network and spectrum carrier aggregation, the deployment of wireless small cells to optimise coverage, signal quality and data backhaul; the initial rollout of ‘fixed WTTH’ using 3.5GHz spectrum to rural locations in Ontario and Quebec; and ongoing investment in Manitoba (Bell MTS) to improve broadband network coverage, capacity and speeds.
In Q4 2018 BCE added 143,114 net new wireless subscribers (comprising 121,780 post-paid and 21,334 pre-paid), 29,627 fixed broadband customers and 36,473 IPTV customers, whilst reporting net losses of 27,220 satellite TV customers and 61,442 residential fixed voice line accesses. At end-2018 it had in total: 9,610,482 wireless customers, up 4.8% (including 8,830,216 post-paid, an increase of 4.9%); 3,933,931 fixed internet subscribers, up 3.8%; 2,853,081 TV subscribers, up 0.7% (including 1,675,706 IPTV customers, an increase of 8.1%); and 2,990,188 residential fixed telephony lines, down 7.5%.