BCE reports 2012 Q4 and full-year results
2013 financial outlook announced, including dividend increase to $2.33
-- BCE Q4 net earnings attributable to common shareholders of $708 million, up 45.7%, or $0.91 per share; Adjusted net earnings per share(1) of $0.65, up 4.8% -- Bell EBITDA(2) up 2.2% in Q4 on robust 13.8% growth at Bell Wireless and 32.3% growth at Bell Media -- Q4 Wireless postpaid net additions of 143,834, up 9%; Wireless EBITDA growth of 13.8% fuelled by 4.1% higher wireless ARPU and disciplined cost control -- Bell Fibe TV net additions of 48,234 in Q4 as service footprint expands to 3.3 million households; 3% year-over-year improvement in residential local access line losses -- All 2012 financial guidance met - EBITDA growth of 4.4% exceeds full-year target on strong contributions from Bell Wireless and Bell Media -- Strong 7% growth in free cash flow(3) in 2012 to $2,420 million, before a $750 million voluntary pension plan contribution -- 2013 outlook builds on positive operating momentum and focused execution of Bell Strategic Imperatives, supporting dividend growth and accelerated capital investment
MONTREAL, Feb. 7, 2013 /PRNewswire/ – BCE Inc. (TSX, NYSE: BCE),
Canada’s largest communications company, today reported BCE and Bell
results for the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2012 and announced its financial
guidance for 2013, as well as a $0.06 per share increase in its annual
common share dividend to $2.33.
Today’s dividend announcement represents BCE’s ninth increase to the
annual common share dividend, representing a 60% overall increase since
the fourth quarter of 2008. The BCE annual common share dividend will
increase from $2.27 to $2.33 per share effective with BCE’s Q1 2013
dividend, payable on April 15, 2013 to shareholders of record at the
close of business on March 15, 2013. Together with the earlier $0.10
per share increase announced on August 8, 2012, BCE’s annual common
share dividend increase for 2013 is up 16 cents or 7.4%. The higher
dividend for 2013 is supported by substantial free cash flow generation
and our positive business outlook for 2013.
BCE reported Q4 2012 net earnings attributable to common shareholders of
$708 million, or $0.91 per share, a 45.7% increase from $486 million,
or $0.62 per share, in Q4 2011. Adjusted net earnings( )attributable to common shareholders were $506 million, an increase of
4.5% compared to Q4 2011, while Adjusted earnings per share (EPS)
increased 4.8% to $0.65 from $0.62 in Q4 2011. The year-over-year
increase in Adjusted EPS was mainly due to higher EBITDA, which
exceeded plan in the quarter.
BCE’s cash flows from operating activities were $863 million in Q4, up
3.0% compared to $838 million last year, due to higher net earnings.
Free cash flow this quarter, before a $750 million voluntary pension
plan contribution, was $605 million, up 7.3% from $564 million in Q4
2011 on higher EBITDA year over year.
($ millions except per Q4 2012 Q4 2011 % change 2012 2011 % change share amounts) (unaudited) Bell (i) Operating Revenues 4,577 4,576 - 17,642 17,133 3.0% EBITDA 1,582 1,548 2.2% 6,591 6,312 4.4% BCE Operating Revenues 5,161 5,166 (0.1%) 19,975 19,497 2.5% EBITDA 1,896 1,869 1.4% 7,883 7,629 3.3% Net Earnings 708 486 45.7% 2,624 2,221 18.1% Attributable to Common Shareholders EPS 0.91 0.62 46.8% 3.39 2.88 17.7% Adjusted EPS 0.65 0.62 4.8% 3.18 3.13 1.6% Cash flows from 863 838 3.0% 5,552 4,869 14.0% operating activities Free Cash Flow (ii) 605 564 7.3% 2,420 2,261 7.0%
(i) Bell includes the Bell Wireless, Bell Wireline and Bell Media segments. (ii) Excluding $750 million of voluntary pension contribution for 2012 and 2011
Bell operating revenues were $4,577 million in Q4 2012, compared to
$4,576 million in Q4 2011, as higher year-over-year revenues driven by
the steadily growing contribution of Bell’s growth services, including
Wireless, TV, Internet and Media, were offset by the continued decline
in Bell Wireline’s traditional voice and data services.
Bell EBITDA was $1,582 million in Q4, up 2.2%, reflecting strong
double-digit EBITDA growth of 13.8% at Bell Wireless and 32.3% at Bell
Media. Bell Wireline’s EBITDA decline of 6.6% in the quarter benefitted
from a $35 million year-over-year reduction in Wireline operating
costs, which contributed to a 0.8 percentage-point improvement in
Bell’s consolidated EBITDA margin of 34.6%. For the full 2012 year,
Bell operating revenues and Bell EBITDA were up 3.0% and 4.4%,
respectively, at $17,642 million and $6,591 million. For 2011, Bell
operating revenues and EBITDA reflect 9 months of Bell Media revenues
and EBITDA, as Bell completed its acquisition of CTV and created Bell
Media on April 1, 2011.
Bell invested $779 million in new capital this quarter, bringing total
capital expenditures to $2,923 million in 2012, up 8.9% from the
previous year. These investments support the continued deployment of
broadband fibre to homes, neighbourhoods and businesses in QuÃ©bec and
Ontario and expansion of the Fibe TV service footprint, enhancement of
customer service systems, the ongoing rollout of the 4G LTE mobile
network in markets across Canada, and the addition of new Bell and The
Source stores across Canada.
“Bell’s Q4 results capped off a solid year of strong operating
performance led by Bell Wireless, Bell Media, and the accelerating
success of Bell Fibe TV as we continued to expand our Fibe footprint in
MontrÃ©al and Toronto and launched the country’s largest fibre to the
home rollout in QuÃ©bec City,” said George Cope, President and CEO of
Bell and BCE Inc. “Bell’s investment in Canada’s best broadband
networks, products and content is delivering new choices for consumers
and enhanced competition in TV, wireless and media. Bell has tremendous
momentum in the marketplace, propelled by the fast expansion of Fibe
TV, strong smartphone growth, and the unmatched innovation and
investment in Canadian news, sports and entertainment content by Bell
“Growth services such as Fibe, 4G LTE, and next-generation business
services like cloud computing increasingly dominate our operating mix.
At the same time, the Bell team is delivering significant improvements
in customer service while reducing our operating costs. The strong
EBITDA, cash flow and net earnings that result from the focused
execution of our strategy enable us to continue to deliver on our
commitment to return value to our shareholders,” said Mr. Cope.
Bell is dedicated to achieving a clear goal – to be recognized by
customers as Canada’s leading communications company – through the
execution of 6 Strategic Imperatives: Invest in Broadband Networks and
Services, Accelerate Wireless, Leverage Wireline Momentum, Expand Media
Leadership, Improve Customer Service, and Achieve a Competitive Cost
“We enjoyed a successful 2012, surpassing our full-year guidance target
for EBITDA which fuelled substantial earnings and strong free cash flow
growth,” said Siim Vanaselja, Chief Financial Officer for Bell and BCE.
“Bell’s operating momentum and financial foundation going into 2013 are
strong. Our 2013 financial targets are underpinned by continued robust
growth across Bell’s growth businesses and improving wireline
performance. This is expected to drive solid growth in underlying
earnings and a 5% or better year-over-year increase in free cash flow.
Our liquidity position and attractive credit profile fully supports our
planned accelerated investment in wireline and wireless broadband
network platforms and higher dividend for 2013.”
BELL OPERATING RESULTS BY SEGMENT
Bell Wireless operating revenues increased 6.8% to $1,458 million in Q4
2012. Service revenue grew 7.4% to $1,312 million on strong postpaid
subscriber growth and higher blended ARPU, fuelled by mobile data
revenue growth of 28% this quarter. Despite average handset prices that
were generally lower because of competitive holiday pricing, product
revenues increased 2.3% to $132 million, reflecting higher sales of
more expensive smartphones. Bell Wireless EBITDA increased 13.8% to
$479 million this quarter, delivering a 2 percentage-point expansion in
EBITDA service margin to 36.5%. This was achieved even with a $26
million year-over-year increase in combined subscriber acquisition
costs and retention spending, which contributed to operating cost
growth of 3.7% in the quarter.
For the full year, Bell Wireless operating revenues increased 6.5% to
$5,573 million with service revenues growing 6.5% to $5,081 million and
product revenues up 3.8% to $438 million. EBITDA grew 15.7% to $2,110
million as service margin increased 3.3 percentage points to 41.5%,
reflecting the significant service revenue flow-through of superior
postpaid subscriber gains achieved throughout the year and
well-controlled operating costs that increased 1.6%, in aggregate, over
the previous year.
-- Postpaid net additions in Q4 increased to 143,834, up 9.0% compared to 131,986 last year. Smartphone users represented 64% of total postpaid subscribers at the end of 2012, compared to 48% one year earlier. -- Postpaid gross activations were 394,706 in Q4, up 1.4% compared to 389,317 last year, led by strong sales of Apple iPhones and leading Android devices during the holiday period. Activations in western Canada continued to increase as Bell added more points of distribution. -- Prepaid net losses decreased to 38,829 in Q4, from 74,100 last year. Prepaid gross activations decreased 17.6% to 101,024, due to Bell's continued focus on acquiring postpaid customers and aggressive acquisition offers from competitors targeted at lower-ARPU subscribers. -- With postpaid additions of 143,834 and prepaid losses of 38,829, the Bell Wireless client base reached 7,681,032 at the end of the quarter, an increase of 3.4% over last year. -- Postpaid customer churn improved to 1.3% from 1.5% in Q4 2011, reflecting the benefits of investment in customer service and retention. Prepaid churn improved to 3.5% this quarter from 4.2% in Q4 2011, due to fewer customer deactivations year over year. -- Blended ARPU increased 4.1% in the quarter to $56.72, driven mainly by a greater number of postpaid customers in our subscriber base, increased postpaid market share in the higher-ARPU western Canada market, and more smartphone customers taking advantage of mobile data services. Similarly, for full-year 2012, blended ARPU increased 4.2% to $55.82. -- Cost of acquisition increased 6.7% this quarter to $480 per gross activation, reflecting a greater number of smartphone activations and higher handset subsidies consistent with the wider availability of the Apple iPhone 5 and competitive holiday pricing. -- Retention spending in the quarter increased to 12% of wireless service revenues, up from 11.4% in Q4 2011, as we matched competitors' aggressive handset offers. -- Bell continues to offer customers access to Canada's largest 4G LTE network, increasing population coverage by over 22% and adding 25 new markets in Q4, resulting in access for approximately 4 million additional Canadians. 4G LTE from Bell now reaches more than 67% of the Canadian population, complementing Bell's 4G HSPA+ and enhanced 4G HSPA+ DC (Dual Cell) networks which offer coast-to-coast coverage to more than 97% and more than 83% of the Canadian population respectively.
The pace of wireline revenue erosion in Q4 2012 improved over the
previous quarter as a result of increased TV revenues, driven by fast
subscriber growth in Fibe TV and an improved local and access revenue
trajectory as residential NAS losses continued to decrease year over
year. Bell Wireline operating revenues decreased 3.7% to $2,608 million
this quarter, as competitive and wireless substitution pressures
continued to impact traditional voice services. Reduced spending by
business customers on wireline data products and information and
communications technology (ICT) services, reflecting continued slow
economic growth, as well as the re-pricing of connectivity services
also contributed to the year-over-year decline in Bell Wireline revenue
Although Bell Wireline EBITDA decreased 6.6% this quarter to $931
million, margins were in line with expectations at 35.7%, reflecting a
$35 million, or 2.0%, reduction in operating costs over last year from
ongoing spending controls and productivity gains achieved in our call
centres and field service operations. For the full 2012 year, wireline
operating revenues decreased 3.8% to $10,220 million, while wireline
EBITDA was down 5.7% to $3,920 million. Wireline EBITDA margin has held
relatively stable at 38.4%, down 0.7 percentage points year over year,
the result of a $166 million, or 2.6%, improvement in operating costs
that effectively absorbed expenses related to Fibe TV growth and softer
business markets results.
-- Bell Fibe TV added 48,234 net new customers compared to 27,967 in the fourth quarter of 2011. The Bell Fibe TV footprint expanded by 500,000 households in Q4 to reach 3.3 million at the end of 2012. Satellite TV net additions were negative in the quarter, reflecting aggressive customer conversion offers from cable competitors, the rollout of IPTV by competing service providers, and Bell customer migrations to Fibe TV. Consequently, total TV net additions were 19,218, compared to 27,702 in Q4 2011. -- The Bell TV subscriber base totalled 2,155,983 at the end of Q4, a year-over-year increase of 2.5%. -- Bell added 7,143 new net high-speed Internet customers in Q4, compared to 1,091 customers in Q4 2011. The improvement reflects the pull-through effect of Fibe TV service bundles, enhanced promotional offers, and continued broadband fibre network expansion, all of which contributed to lower residential and business customer churn year over year. Bell had 2,115,243 high-speed Internet customers at the end of 2012, a 0.1% year-over-year increase. -- Wireline data revenue was $1,448 million in the quarter, compared to $1,450 million in Q4 2011, as higher TV revenue driven by strong Fibe TV subscriber growth was offset by lower data product and ICT sales. -- Residential NAS net losses in Q4 2012 decreased to 87,029, a 3.0% improvement over the previous year, as Bell continued to reduce customer turnover as the Fibe TV service area expands. Wireless substitution, which continued to steadily increase, moderated the overall decrease in residential NAS. Business access losses increased to 36,641 from 13,947 in Q4 2011, reflecting higher wholesale customer deactivations and a continued lack of new business growth. -- Local and access revenues declined 7.6% to $635 million. Total NAS at the end of the quarter was 5,644,939, a 7.5% decline year over year, attributable to increased competition and a reduction in access lines and digital circuits as customers continue to adopt wireless and IP-based technologies. -- Long distance revenues declined 12.8% to $191 million. The year-over-year decline reflected fewer minutes of use by residential and business customers resulting from NAS line losses and technology substitution, ongoing rate pressures, and decreased sales of global long distance minutes. -- Equipment and other revenue decreased 6.3% to $255 million due mainly to lower year-over-year legacy wireline telecommunications equipment sales and promotional offers on TV set-top boxes.
Bell Media reported operating revenue of $591 million in Q4 2012, up
2.2% from last year. The increase was due to higher subscriber fee
revenue, which grew approximately 7% year over year, driven by
market-based rates charged to broadcast distributors through
renegotiated agreements for certain Bell Media specialty TV services.
Advertising revenue decreased slightly from last year, down
approximately 1%, as the impact of the NHL Lockout across Bell Media’s
specialty sports properties was largely offset by stronger advertising
demand and shifting demand to its conventional and non-sports specialty
Bell Media’s EBITDA was up 32.3% in Q4 2012 to $172 million, reflecting
the flow-through of higher subscriber fee revenue and 6.5% lower
operating costs due mainly to lower content and production costs as a
result of the NHL lockout. For the full 2012 year, operating revenue
and EBITDA were up 41.6% and 68.0%, respectively, to $2,183 million and
-- CTV completed the fall season with 13 of the Top 20 programs, up 2 from the same period last year, and with 19% more viewers in primetime than Canada's other 2 leading private networks combined. -- TSN and RDS drew 5.8 million viewers for The Grey Cup, up 27% from the prior year, with the half-time show attracting an average audience of 6.4 million viewers. -- RDS announced a new multiplatform docu-reality series, 24CH, offering Habs fansunprecedented access to their team on television, Internet, superphones and tablets, in time for the first game of the season. -- CTV's non-sports specialty services continued to post strong audience growth with 8 of the Top 20 TV programs and all 5 of the Top 5 fall series, led by double-digit increases for The Comedy Network and Bravo! -- Bell Media Radio launched its new web platform. There are 13 stations currently on the new technology, including Toronto's CHUMFM.com, the largest radio website. -- The Discovery Channel app reached 200,000 downloads. Social media campaigns for High Tech Toys Week and End of the World specials increased Daily Planet Facebook likes by 50%, while retweets increased 9-fold. -- Bell Media rebranded its Sympatico portal in English Canada as TheLoop.ca, a new brand destination that enhances and strengthens the most successful content on Sympatico with more original video hosted by distinctive Bell Media personalities. -- Cirque du Soleil and Bell Media announced the closing of the transaction to create Cirque du Soleil MÃ©dia, a new joint venture to develop QuÃ©bec-based media content for television, film, digital, and gaming platforms.
Bell Aliant’s revenues decreased 1.0% to $694 million in Q4 2012, due to
lower local and access, and long distance revenues, partly offset by
higher data and wireless revenues. Bell Aliant’s EBITDA decreased 2.2%
to $314 million this quarter, due to lower revenues as operating costs
were unchanged year over year. Similarly, for the full 2012 year, Bell
Aliant revenues and EBITDA declined 0.5% and 1.9%, respectively, to
$2,761 million and $1,292 million.
BCE’s operating revenues were $5,161 million in Q4 2012, compared to
$5,166 million in Q4 2011, reflecting stable year-over-year revenues at
Bell and lower revenues at Bell Aliant. For the full 2012 year,
revenues were up 2.5% at $19,975 million, due to higher revenues at
Bell driven by the strong contribution of Bell Wireless and Bell Media.
BCE’s EBITDA increased 1.4% to $1,896 million in Q4 2012 and 3.3% to
$7,883 million for the full year as a result of 4.4% EBITDA growth at
Bell, moderated by a year-over-year decrease at Bell Aliant.
BCE’s cash flows from operating activities were $863 million in Q4, up
3.0% compared to $838 million last year, due to higher net earnings.
Free cash flow this quarter, before and after the $750 million
voluntary pension plan contribution, was $605 million and negative $145
million, respectively, compared to $564 million and negative $186
million, respectively, in the previous year. The year-over-year
improvement was due primarily to higher EBITDA. For the full 2012 year,
BCE’s cash flows from operating activities were up 14.0% to $5,552
million. Free cash flow, before and after a voluntary pension
contribution, was $2,420 million and $1,670 million compared to $2,261
million and $1,511 million in 2011, respectively.
BCE’s net earnings attributable to common shareholders were $708
million, or $0.91 per share, in Q4 compared to $486 million, or $0.62
per share, in the same quarter last year. The year-over-year increase
in earnings was due primarily to higher EBITDA and a $248 million
non-cash gain related to our Inukshuk investment. Full-year net
earnings attributable to common shareholders were $2,624 million or
$3.39 per share, compared to $2,221 million or $2.88 per share in 2011.
BCE’s Adjusted EPS was $0.65 per common share in the quarter, compared
to $0.62 last year. This 4.8% increase was due to higher EBITDA. For
the full 2012 year, BCE’s Adjusted EPS was $3.18 per share, $0.05
higher than 2011.
On November 19, 2012, following the CRTC’s denial of their original
application, Bell and Astral amended the terms of their proposed
transaction and submitted a new application to the CRTC for approval of
Bell’s proposed acquisition of Astral. The new proposal seeks to
address the CRTC’s concerns, including complying with the relevant
viewership thresholds and revising the package of tangible benefits to
support the creation of exceptional Canadian TV and radio content,
promote homegrown talent in a multi-platform universe, and foster
consumer engagement in the broadcasting system. As a result of the
amendments made to the terms of the original Arrangement Agreement
between Astral and Bell, the outside date for the closing of the
transaction has been extended to June 1, 2013 with Astral and Bell each
having a further right to postpone it to July 31, 2013, if required, to
obtain necessary regulatory approvals. Details of the new Astral-Bell
proposal will be made available by the CRTC when it launches its public
consultation on the application. The transaction remains subject to
CRTC and Competition Bureau approval, other closing conditions and
termination rights. A break-up fee of $150 million is payable by BCE to
Astral should the transaction not close before the outside date for
regulatory reasons. On February 1, 2013, Astral paid a cash dividend of
$0.50 per share on its class A non-voting shares and class B
subordinate voting shares. Learn more about Astral-Bell at CanadiansDeserveMore.ca.
BELL LET’S TALK DAY IS FEBRUARY 12
The 2013 Bell Let’s Talk campaign in support of Canadian mental health
highlights the impact of mental illness on our workplaces and economy.
On the third annual Bell Let’s Talk Day on February 12, national
spokesperson Clara Hughes will again invite to Canadians to join the
conversation about mental health to help reduce the stigma around
mental illness. On February 12, Bell will donate 5¢ more to Canadian
mental health initiatives for every text and long distance call by Bell
and Bell Aliant customers, tweets using #BellLetsTalk, and Facebook
shares of the Bell Let’s Talk image.
Bell also announced its support of the new national Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace standard, developed by CSA Group and Bureau de normalisation du QuÃ©bec
in collaboration with the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Bell, the
Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace and the
federal government funded the development of the voluntary standard.
The first of its kind in the world, the standard offers guidance to
Canadian businesses and other organizations in promoting mental health
and addressing mental illness in the workplace. With 500,000 Canadians
missing work each day because of a mental illness, the impact in lost
labour-market participation was an estimated $20.7 billion in 2012
BELL NAMED TOP MONTRÃ‰AL EMPLOYER
Bell is proud to be recognized as one of MontrÃ©al’s Top Employers for
2013 in the annual competition organized by Mediacorp Canada. A
MontrÃ©al-based company since its founding in 1880, Bell was recognized
for its significant investment in training and professional
development, leading parental support programs, wide-ranging career
possibilities, and a share purchase plan that enables all team members
to share in the company’s success. Bell is the largest communications
company in QuÃ©bec, with more than 17,000 employees and more than 13,000
retirees, and plays a crucial role in the technological, economic and
social prosperity of QuÃ©bec.
OUTLOOK FOR 2013
Our 2013 financial guidance builds on the positive operating momentum we
delivered in 2012, reflecting continued strong progress in the
execution of Bell’s Strategic Imperatives and the ongoing
transformation of its operating mix away from legacy wireline voice
The financial guidance targets for revenue growth, EBITDA growth,
Adjusted EPS, free cash flow growth and capital intensity in 2013 do
not reflect the financial impact from the pending acquisition of
Astral. We anticipate updating our 2013 financial guidance upon closing
of the Astral acquisition targeted for the second quarter of 2013.
BCE’s 2012 results and financial guidance targets for 2013 are as
2012 Results 2013 Guidance Bell(i) Revenue Growth 3.0% 0% - 2% EBITDA Growth 4.4% 1% - 3% Capital Intensity 16.6% 16% - 17% BCE Adjusted EPS (ii) $3.18 n.a. - As reported $2.97 - $3.03 - Restated for new pension $2.96 accounting standard Free Cash Flow growth (iii) 7.0% 5% - 9% Annual common dividend per share $2.27 $2.33 Dividend payout policy 65% - 75% 65% to 75% of free cash flow of free cash flow
(i) Bell's 2013 financial guidance for revenue, EBITDA and capital intensity is exclusive of Bell Aliant. (ii) For 2013, we define Adjusted net earnings as net earnings attributable to common shareholders before severance, acquisition and other costs, net (gains) losses on investments and costs to retire debt early. We define Adjusted EPS as Adjusted net earnings per BCE Inc. common share. (iii) For 2013, we define free cash flow as cash flows from operating activities excluding acquisition costs paid and voluntary pension funding, plus dividends/distributions received from Bell Aliant, less capital expenditures, preferred share dividends, dividends/distributions paid by subsidiaries to non-controlling interest, and Bell Aliant free cash flow.
Our financial reporting in 2013 will reflect the introduction of the new
accounting standard for defined benefit pension plan expense that
requires the expected accounting rate of return on pension assets to be
reduced to the accounting pension discount rate. The non-cash impact on
2012 Adjusted EPS, which will be restated as a result of this new
pension accounting standard is $0.22 per share, resulting in a decrease
to reported Adjusted EPS from $3.18 per share to $2.96 per share. In
2013, Adjusted EPS will be impacted negatively by a further $0.06 per
share, reflecting a lower discount rate at the end of 2012 compared to
the end of the previous year. Additionally, due to the large non-cash
impact on Adjusted EPS, BCE will report its dividend payout ratio in
2013 on the basis of free cash flow as it is better aligned with the
payment of cash dividends.
COMMON SHARE DIVIDEND
BCE’s Board of Directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.5825 per
common share, payable on April 15, 2013 to shareholders of record at
the close of business on March 15, 2013.
BCE’s 2013 Investor Conference being held today at the Royal York Hotel
in Toronto is being webcast live today, February 7, 2013, at 8:30 a.m.
ET on the BCE website at: http://www.bce.ca/investors/investorevents/all/show/bce-2013-analyst-conference. This webcast will also be available for replay on the BCE website
later in the day.
The information contained in this news release is unaudited.
(1) The terms Adjusted net earnings and Adjusted EPS do not have any standardized meaning under IFRS. They are therefore unlikely to be comparable to similar measures presented by other companies. For 2012, we define Adjusted net earnings as net earnings attributable to common shareholders before severance, acquisition and other costs, and net (gains) losses on investments. We define Adjusted EPS as Adjusted net earnings per BCE Inc. common share. We use Adjusted net earnings and Adjusted EPS, among other measures, to assess the performance of our businesses without the effects of severance, acquisition and other costs, and net (gains) losses on investments, net of tax and non-controlling interest. We exclude these items because they affect the comparability of our financial results and could potentially distort the analysis of trends in business performance. Excluding these items does not imply they are non-recurring. The most comparable IFRS financial measures are net earnings attributable to common shareholders and earnings per share. The following table is a reconciliation of net earnings attributable to common shareholders and earnings per share to Adjusted net earnings on a consolidated basis and per BCE Inc. common share (Adjusted EPS), respectively.
($ millions except per share amounts)
Q4 2012 Q4 2011 2012 2011 Total Per Total Per Total Per share Total Per share share share Net earnings 708 0.91 486 0.62 2,624 3.39 2,221 2.88 attributable to common shareholders Severance, 46 0.06 (2) - 94 0.12 282 0.37 acquisition and other costs Net gains on (248) (0.32) - - (256) (0.33) (89) (0.12) investments Adjusted net 506 0.65 484 0.62 2,462 3.18 2,414 3.13 earnings
(2) The term EBITDA does not have any standardized meaning under IFRS. It is therefore unlikely to be comparable to similar measures presented by other companies. We define EBITDA as operating revenues less operating costs, as shown in BCE's consolidated income statements. We use EBITDA to evaluate the performance of our businesses as it reflects their ongoing profitability. We believe that certain investors and analysts use EBITDA to measure a company's ability to service debt and to meet other payment obligations or as a common measurement to value companies in the telecommunications industry. EBITDA also is one component in the determination of short-term incentive compensation for all management employees. EBITDA has no directly comparable IFRS financial measure. Alternatively, the following table provides a reconciliation of BCE net earnings to EBITDA.
December 31 Q4 2012 Q4 2011 2012 2011 Net earnings 809 573 3,053 2,574 Severance, acquisition and other 70 (1) 133 409 costs Depreciation 692 661 2,674 2,538 Amortization 175 181 714 723 Finance costs 223 218 865 853 Interest expense 239 245 958 973 Interest on employee benefits (267) (260) (1,069) (1,032) obligations Expected return on pension plan (242) 5 (270) (129) assets Other income 197 247 825 720 Income taxes EBITDA 1,896 1,869 7,883 7,629
(3) The term free cash flow does not have any standardized meaning under IFRS. Therefore it is unlikely to be comparable to similar measures presented by other companies. For 2012, we define free cash flow as cash flows from operating activities, excluding acquisition costs paid, plus dividends/distributions received from Bell Aliant, less capital expenditures, preferred share dividends, dividends/distributions paid by subsidiaries to non-controlling interest and Bell Aliant free cash flow. We consider free cash flow to be an important indicator of the financial strength and performance of our business because it shows how much cash is available to repay debt and reinvest in our company. We present free cash flow consistently from period to period, which allows us to compare our financial performance on a consistent basis. We believe that certain investors and analysts use free cash flow to value a business and its underlying assets. The most comparable IFRS financial measure is cash from operating activities. The following table is a reconciliation of cash flows from operating activities to free cash flow on a consolidated basis.
Q4 2012 Q4 2011 2012 2011 Cash flows from operating activities 863 838 5,552 4,869 Bell Aliant dividends / distributions 48 48 191 214 to BCE Capital expenditures (914) (1,008) (3,515) (3,256) Dividends paid on preferred shares (39) (31) (133) (118) Dividends paid by subsidiaries to (85) (72) (340) (315) non-controlling interest Acquisition costs paid 5 28 101 70 Bell Aliant free cash flow (23) 11 (186) 47 Free cash flow (145) (186) 1,670 1,511
CAUTION CONCERNING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
Certain statements made in this news release, including, but not limited
to, statements relating to our 2013 financial guidance (including
revenues, EBITDA, Capital Intensity, Adjusted EPS and Free Cash Flow),
our business outlook, objectives, plans and strategic priorities, BCE’s
2013 annualized common share dividend and common share dividend policy,
the expected timing and completion of BCE’s proposed acquisition of
Astral, our 4G LTE wireless, IPTV network and broadband fibre
deployment plans and other statements that are not historical facts,
are forward-looking. Forward-looking statements are typically
identified by the words “assumption”, “goal”, “guidance”, “objective”, “outlook”, “project”,
“strategy”, “target” and other similar expressions or future or conditional verbs such as “aim“, “anticipate“, “believe“, “could“, “expect“, “intend“, “may“, “plan“, “seek“, “should“, “strive” and “will“. All such forward-looking statements are made pursuant to the ‘safe
harbour’ provisions of applicable Canadian securities laws and of the
United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.
Forward-looking statements, by their very nature, are subject to
inherent risks and uncertainties and are based on several assumptions,
both general and specific, which give rise to the possibility that
actual results or events could differ materially from our expectations
expressed in or implied by such forward-looking statements. As a
result, we cannot guarantee that any forward-looking statement will
materialize and you are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these
forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements contained in
this news release describe our expectations as of February 7, 2013 and,
accordingly, are subject to change after such date. Except as may be
required by Canadian securities laws, we do not undertake any
obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements contained
in this news release, whether as a result of new information, future
events or otherwise. Except as otherwise indicated by BCE,
forward-looking statements do not reflect the potential impact of any
non-recurring or other special items or of any dispositions,
monetizations, mergers, acquisitions, other business combinations or
other transactions that may be announced or that may occur after
February 7, 2013. The financial impact of these transactions and
non-recurring and other special items can be complex and depends on the
facts particular to each of them. We therefore cannot describe the
expected impact in a meaningful way or in the same way we present known
risks affecting our business. Forward-looking statements are presented
for the purpose of assisting investors and others in understanding
certain key elements of our expected 2013 financial results, as well as
our objectives, strategic priorities and business outlook for 2013, and
in obtaining a better understanding of our anticipated operating
environment. Readers are cautioned that such information may not be
appropriate for other purposes.
A number of economic, market, operational and financial assumptions were
made by BCE in preparing its forward-looking statements for 2013
contained in this news release, including, but not limited to:
Canadian Economic and Market Assumptions
-- Growth in the Canadian economy of 2.0% in 2013, compared to estimated growth of 1.9% in 2012, based on the Bank of Canada's most recent estimate; -- a slow pace of employment growth and new business formation affecting overall business customer demand; -- a sustained level of wireline and wireless competition in both consumer and business markets; -- higher wireline replacement, due primarily to increasing wireless and Internet-based technological substitution; -- increasing wireless industry penetration driven, in particular, by the accelerated adoption of smartphones, tablets and data applications, the expansion of LTE service in most urban and sub-urban markets, the proliferation of 4G devices, as well as population growth; and -- a stable advertising market for Bell Media.
Our forward-looking statements for 2013 are also based on certain
internal operational assumptions concerning Bell (excluding Bell
Aliant), including, but not limited to:
-- a growing number of network access service (NAS) line losses from increasing wireless and Internet-based technological substitution; -- improving year-over-year residential NAS line losses with targeted service bundle offers led by Bell Fibe TV; -- continued large business customer migration to IP based systems, increased competitive intensity in mass and mid-size business markets and ongoing competitive re-price pressures in our business and wholesale markets; -- ARPU growth maintained across all residential products and increasing penetration of three-product households driven by Bell Fibe TV growth; -- ongoing aggressive competitive pricing on bundle offers with a focus on promotional discounts and customer retention credits; -- Bell Mobility to maintain its market share of the incumbent wireless postpaid market; -- relatively stable year-over-year rate of investment in subscriber cost of acquisition per gross activation and retention spending as a percentage of wireless service revenue to drive optimal postpaid customer and device mix; -- increased blended wireless ARPU driven by data usage and roaming growth attributable to a higher mix of smartphones and higher-value postpaid customers as well as increased distribution in western Canada, offset partly by voice ARPU erosion due to pricing and data substitution; -- the maintenance of relatively stable EBITDA margins; -- continued execution on operating cost reductions and labour efficiency gains across the Bell organization to offset costs related to growth in our Fibe TV subscriber activations, higher wireless customer acquisition and retention spending, and ongoing wireline voice erosion; -- increasing EBITDA contribution from wireless with a lesser year-over-year decline in wireline EBITDA; -- a gradual improvement in the performance of our Business Markets unit as the economy grows and employment levels rise; -- Bell Media's ability to maintain solid TV ratings, implement further market-based specialty TV rate increases and control programming costs; -- increased investment in broadband infrastructure and fibre expansion and upgrades to support Bell Fibe TV and our Internet services; -- Bell Fibe TV service footprint extended to approximately 4.3 million households by the end of 2013; and -- Bell Fibe TV contributing to stronger overall TV subscriber growth, Internet attach rates and triple-play household share.
Our forward-looking statements for 2013 are also based on certain
financial assumptions for 2013 concerning Bell (excluding Bell Aliant),
including, but not limited to:
-- Bell's total employee benefit plans cost to be approximately $340million, based on an estimated accounting discount rate of 4.4% and an expected return on plan assets of 4.4%, comprised of an estimated above EBITDA employee benefit plans service cost of approximately $220million and an estimated below EBITDA net employee benefit plans financing cost of approximately $120 million; -- total pension plan cash funding to be approximately $350 million; -- cash taxes to be approximately $300 million, and; -- net interest expense and payments to be approximately $700 million.
Our forward-looking statements for 2013 are also based on certain
financial assumptions for 2013 concerning BCE, including, but not
-- BCE's total employee benefit plans cost to be approximately $420 million, including approximately $80 million for Bell Aliant, comprised of an estimated above EBITDA employee benefit plans service cost of approximately $280million and an estimated below EBITDA net employee benefit plans financing cost of approximately $140million; -- depreciation and amortization expense approximately $50 million higher compared to 2012; -- net interest expense of approximately $875 million; -- tax adjustments (per share) of approximately $0.07; -- an effective tax rate of approximately 26%; -- non-controlling interest similar to 2012; and -- an annual common share dividend of $2.33per share.
The foregoing assumptions, although considered reasonable by BCE on
February 7, 2013, may prove to be inaccurate. Accordingly, our actual
results could differ materially from our expectations as set forth in
this news release.
Important risk factors that could cause our assumptions and estimates to
be inaccurate and actual results or events to differ materially from
those expressed in or implied by our forward-looking statements,
including our 2013 financial guidance, are listed below. The
realization of our forward-looking statements, including our ability to
meet our 2013 financial guidance, essentially depends on our business
performance which, in turn, is subject to many risks. Accordingly,
readers are cautioned that any of the following risks could have a
material adverse effect on our forward-looking statements. These risks
include, but are not limited to:
-- the intensity of competitive activity, including the increase in wireless competitive activity resulting from new wireless entrants and their ability to launch or expand services, and the resulting impact on our ability to retain existing customers and attract new ones, as well as on our pricing strategies, ARPU and financial results; -- the level of technological substitution contributing to reduced utilization of traditional wireline voice services and the increasing number of households that use only wireless telephone services; -- the increased adoption by customers of alternative TV services; -- variability in subscriber acquisition and retention costs based on subscriber acquisitions, retention volumes, smartphone sales and subsidy levels; -- regulatory initiatives or proceedings, litigation, changes in laws or regulations and tax matters; -- our failure to maintain network operating performance including as a result of the significant increase in broadband demand and in the volume of wireless data driven traffic; -- events affecting the functionality of, and our ability to protect, maintain and replace, our networks, equipment, facilities and other assets; -- our ability to maintain customer service and our networks operational in the event of the occurrence of environmental disasters or epidemics, pandemics and other health risks; -- our ability to anticipate and respond to technological change, upgrade our networks and rapidly offer new products and services; -- our failure to implement, on a timely basis, or maintain effective IT systems and the complexity and costs of our IT environment; -- general economic and financial market conditions, the level of consumer confidence and spending, and the demand for, and prices of, our products and services; -- our ability to implement our strategies and plans in order to produce the expected benefits, including our ability to continue to implement our cost reduction initiatives and contain capital intensity while seeking to improve customer service; -- increased contributions to employee benefit plans; -- ineffective management of changes resulting from restructurings and other corporate initiatives and from the integration of business units and business acquisitions; -- the complexity of our product offerings and pricing plans; -- labour disruptions; -- employee retention and performance; -- events affecting the ability of third-party suppliers to provide to us, and our ability to purchase, essential products and services; -- the quality of our network and customer equipment and the extent to which they may be subject to manufacturing defects; -- capital and other expenditure levels, financing and debt requirements and our ability to raise the capital we need to implement our business plan, including for BCE's dividend payments and to fund capital and other expenditures and generally meet our financial obligations; -- our ability to discontinue certain traditional services as necessary to improve capital and operating efficiencies; -- launch and in-orbit risks of satellites used by Bell ExpressVu Limited Partnership; -- the theft of our DTH satellite television services; -- Bell Media's significant dependence on continued demand for advertising, and the potential adverse effect thereon from economic conditions, cyclical and seasonal variations and competitive pressures; -- the adverse effect of new technology and increasing fragmentation in Bell Media's television and radio markets; -- potential increases in royalties payable by Bell Media under licences pursuant to the Copyright Act may increase; -- health concerns about radio frequency emissions from wireless devices; -- BCE's dependence on the ability of its subsidiaries, joint ventures and other companies in which it has an interest to pay dividends and make other distributions; -- there can be no certainty that dividends will be declared by BCE's board of directors or that BCE's dividend policy will be maintained; -- stock market volatility; -- our failure to evolve practices and effectively monitor and control fraudulent activities; and -- the expected timing and completion of the proposed acquisition by BCE of Astral is subject to approval by the CRTC and Competition Bureau, other closing conditions, termination rights and other risks and uncertainties; accordingly, there can be no certainty that the transaction will be completed or that anticipated benefits will be realized.
We caution that the foregoing list of risk factors is not exhaustive and
other factors could also adversely affect our results.
We encourage investors to also read BCE’s Safe Harbour Notice Concerning
Forward-Looking Statements dated February 7, 2013, for additional
information with respect to certain of these and other assumptions and
risks, filed by BCE with the Canadian securities commissions (available
at www.sedar.com) and with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (available at www.sec.gov). This document is also available on BCE’s website at www.bce.ca. BCE’s Safe Harbour Notice Concerning Forward-Looking Statements dated
February 7, 2013 is incorporated by reference into this news release.
For additional information, please refer to the February 7, 2013 Bell
Investor Conference 2013 presentations available on BCE’s website.
BCE is Canada’s largest communications company, providing a
comprehensive and innovative suite of broadband communication services
to residential and business customers under the Bell and Bell Aliant
brands. Bell Media is Canada’s premier multimedia company with leading
assets in television, radio and digital media, including CTV, Canada’s
#1 television network, and the country’s most-watched specialty
The Bell Mental Health Initiative is a multi-year charitable program
that promotes mental health across Canada via the Bell Let’s Talk
anti-stigma campaign and support for community care, research and
workplace best practices. To learn more, please visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.
SOURCE Bell Canada