Shaw, Cogeco both see Q1 gains

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TORONTO -- The buoyancy of Canadian cable giants was evident Thursday as Shaw Communications Inc. and Cogeco Inc. each posted higher first-quarter earnings on increased customer growth.

Calgary-based Shaw, the country's second-largest cablecaster, posted CAN$81.1 million ($69 million) in earnings for the three months through Nov. 30, up from a profit of CAN$75.7 million in 2005.

First-quarter 2007 revenue rose rose 13.8% to CAN$671 million ($610 million), compared with a year-earlier CAN$589.5 million, as Shaw saw across-the-board customer growth.

The cabler said its digital phone subscriber base jumped 38,197 customers to 250,904 in all, while its number of high-speed Internet subscribers rose 35,877 to 1.34 million and its digital cable subscribers jumped 25,331 to 696,887.

On the cable side, first-quarter revenue jumped 16% to CAN$499.2 million ($426 million), as Shaw added 12,664 basic cable subscribers, lifting its total to 2.21 million, while it took its direct-broadcast-satellite customer base to 871,634 by adding 2,426 subscribers.

In a statement, Shaw Communications CEO Jim Shaw said his company was on course to meet previous fiscal 2007 free-cash-flow guidance of CAN$300 million-CAN$320 million ($256 million-$273.5 million).

Elsewhere, Cogeco Cable, Canada's fourth-largest cable company, on Thursday posted first-quarter earnings that were up 39.3% to CAN$12.5 million ($10.6 million), against earnings of CAN$9 million in 2005.

Boosted by a first-time contribution from its recently acquired Portuguese cable business, Cabovisao-Televisao por Cabo SA, Cogeco's overall revenue jumped 54.8% to CAN$222 million ($189 million) for the three months through Nov. 30, from CAN$143.4 million in 2005.

Montreal-based Cogeco said revenues for its Canadian operations rose 17% to CAN$167.9 million ($143.5 million), as the cablecaster added 16,240 basic cable customers to take its total to just below 850,000, another 21,224 digital TV customers (to 348,588), and 26,616 digital phone customers (to 78,931).

On Monday, Rogers Communications, Canada's largest cabler, reported that it had added 244,500 new wireless phone subscribers during its latest fourth quarter, while bringing on board another 69,600 digital cable subscribers and 95,100 cable telephone subscribers.
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