Cuts boost BCE Q1 numbers

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TORONTO -- As it fields takeover pitches, Canadian phone giant BCE on Wednesday said cost-cutting moves have enabled higher first-quarter earnings.

Montreal-based BCE posted CAN$499 million ($449.5 million) in earnings for the three months ended March 31, compared with a profit of CAN$477 million in 2006.

Revenue rose 1% to CAN$4.39 billion ($3.96 billion) during the latest quarter on higher revenues at Bell Canada, BCE's phone division, and Telesat Canada, its domestic satellite operator.

Earlier this week, BCE said it will open its books for prospective buyers, which include Canadian pension funds and U.S. private equity groups. Any sale of BCE, whose holdings include Bell ExpressVu LLP, the domestic satellite TV operator, and a minority interest in broadcaster and newspaper publisher CTVglobemedia, is expected to top CAN$30 billion ($27 billion).

"Once again, we were able to deliver solid EBITDA growth and that contributed to an increase in earnings per share," BCE chief executive Michael Sabia said.

While confirming its 2007 financial guidance, BCE predicted it will come in at the lower end of its guidance range for revenue and EBITDA growth.

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