Shaw posts steep Q4 earnings drop

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TORONTO -- Despite customer growth, Canadian cable giant Shaw Communications on Friday posted a steep drop in fourth-quarter earnings as it filed without the benefit of last year's one-time, non-operating items.

Calgary-based Shaw, which dominates the western Canadian cable market, said earnings for the three months ending Aug. 31 came to CAN$136 million ($132 million), compared with a profit of CAN$210.1 million when asset sale gains and tax recoveries helped boost the bottom line in 2006.

Fourth-quarter revenue rose 13% to CAN$715.5 million ($694 million), compared with a year-earlier CAN$631.8 million, due mostly to customer growth and price hikes.

Cable revenue at Canada's second-largest cablecaster increased 16% to CAN$542 million ($526.2 million), while satellite TV revenue from its Star Choice Communications division rose 5% to CAN$173 million ($168 million).

Shaw saw is basic cable customer base fall by 2,057 to 2,226,841, while it added 15,709 digital cable customers to take its total to 763,140.

The cable giant also added 29,857 high-speed Internet access customers to a base of 1.45 million, another 1,686 Star Choice customers came on board for 879,585 in all, and Shaw recruited 41,604 new digital phone users for a total 385,357 subscribers.

Shaw Communications CEO Jim Shaw said his company's growth was "driven by customer growth, value enhancements which support pricing, and the rapid penetration of digital phone."

Full-year earnings at Shaw came to CAN$388 million ($376.5 million), from earnings of CAN$458 million in 2006. Revenue was up to CAN$2.77 billion ($2.68 billion) during the frame, against a year-earlier CAN$2.45 billion.
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