Rogers rides iPhone wave to big Q3 gains

Cable giant's earnings jump 84% to $383 mil

TORONTO -- Despite an economic downturn, Canadian cable giant Rogers Communications on Tuesday dialed up sharply higher third-quarter profits thanks to rising demand for Apple's 3G iPhone.

Toronto-based Rogers saw earnings jump 84% to CAN$495 million ($383 million) for the three months ending Sept. 30, compared with a profit of CAN$269 million in 2007.

Revenue rose 14% to CAN$2.98 billion ($2.3 billion), against a year-earlier CAN$2.61 billion, largely helped by "strong" sales of the iPhone and the BlackBerry smart phone as well as growth in the number of wireless phone subscribers.

Since July, Rogers has activated 255,000 iPhones nationwide, with the promise of higher contract fees into the future.

Overall, wireless revenue rose 20% to CAN$1.72 billion ($1.33 billion), compared with $1.44 billion in 2007.

Cable revenue added CAN$724 million ($560 million) against a year-earlier CAN$657 million. Rogers' media division, meanwhile, which includes radio and TV stations, saw revenue climb 14% to CAN$386 million ($298.5 million), compared with CAN$339 million in 2007.

Rogers added 18,000 new basic cable subscribers during the latest quarter, compared with 9,000 in 2007, to get to 2.31 million customers. It recruited 29,000 additional high-speed Internet customers for a new base of 1.56 million subscribers.

Rogers executives told analysts during a morning call that they were in a wait-and-see mode to judge how deep and long the current economic downturn was, but were well-positioned to pull through hard times.

President and CEO Ted Rogers insisted that his balance sheet is "rock solid" and well-financed to help Rogers weather the current downturn.