(Montreal) The temperature of the water is more and more lenient for Quebecor which is considering taking a dip in the wireless market outside Quebec, judges its president and chief executive officer, Pierre Karl Péladeau. This adventure could be done with or without Freedom Mobile, he adds.

The conditions are increasingly close to being met for a pan-Canadian incursion, believes Mr. Péladeau. He cited the Competition Bureau’s opposition to Rogers’ $26 billion bid for the Shaw acquisition and statements by Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne as examples. , that a full buyout would be “fundamentally inconsistent” with the policies of the Trudeau government.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has also issued a decision that allows regional operators to lease access to the networks of major Canadian telecommunications companies, provided they have local frequency spectrum themselves. The regulatory conditions surrounding this decision are still awaited.

“All of these elements contribute to a multiplication of opportunities and in this respect, certainly, the multiple choices offered to us allow us to pursue the interest that we had already announced, already more than 18 months ago, “said Mr. Péladeau said at a press conference on the sidelines of its annual meeting on Thursday.

On more than one occasion, Mr. Péladeau had said that his company was considering expanding into other provinces. The company believes that the Quebec market has become “fairly mature” and believes that the rest of Canada, where competition is less intense, would offer lucrative business opportunities. Asked about the subject, the CEO confirmed that Thursday’s statements indicate a heightened degree of conviction about his ambition to expand the reach of his business outside Quebec.

Mr. Péladeau refused to “negotiate in public” about his efforts to acquire Freedom Mobile, the wireless division of Shaw Communications. Quebecor does not necessarily need this acquisition to expand into other Canadian provinces, he said.

“The answer is simple: yes, Quebecor is able to start its wireless business outside of Quebec due to the acquisition of the licenses during the auctions that took place last year. »

In 2021, the Montreal company acquired 294 blocks of spectrum in the 3500 MHz band, for an amount of 830 million. More than half of this investment is concentrated in four Canadian provinces: Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

The market seems to have reacted negatively to the idea that Quebecor is getting closer to its pan-Canadian goals. By noon, the stock was down $1.83, or 6.47%, at $26.28.

Jérôme Dubreuil of Desjardins Capital Markets, however, believes that investors are wrong to fear this prospect. “We continue to believe that the stock is trading at an attractive price while investors are overestimating the risks associated with this project. »

Quebecor announced results slightly above analysts’ expectations earlier Thursday, while improved margins in the telecommunications sector offset operating losses in the media business.

Even though revenues from telecommunications activities declined by 1.2% to 903.4 million, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for this segment rose by 2% to 460 million. The telecommunications sector accounted for 83% of the company’s revenue in the first quarter. “Revenues in the telecom sector are down, but cost cutting was there,” said Vince Valentini of TD Securities.

The media business, however, posted a loss before interest, taxes and amortization of 11.9 million, compared to a profit of 1.3 million, despite a 4% increase in revenue to 181.8 million.

The company estimates that the enhancement of TVA Group’s investments had positive spinoffs, while the TVA Network gained 0.7 market share during the first three months of the year.

Quebecor posted a net profit of 117.1 million in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, slightly lower than the 120 million reported a year earlier.

Diluted adjusted earnings per share, a metric tracked by analysts, rose to 54 cents from 52 cents a year ago. The company’s total revenue, for its part, fell by 0.3%, from 1.09 billion to 1.088 billion in the first quarter of 2022.

Prior to the earnings release, analysts had expected earnings per share of 52 cents and revenue of 1.101 billion, according to data firm Refinitiv.



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