Shaw Q4 profit down from year ago but Freedom Mobile's growth gains momentum

TORONTO — Shaw Communications Inc.’s Freedom Mobile wireless business gained growth momentum during the summer months, with a record number of new customers in the fourth quarter that exceeded analyst estimates.

During the quarter ended Aug. 31, Freedom added 90,700 customers to bring its total to nearly 1.7 million subscribers in three provinces — making it the largest of Canada’s regional wireless carriers.

Analysts had generally expected Freedom would grow its customer base less than in last year’s fourth quarter, when it had 85,000 net subscriber additions.

Shaw chief executive Brad Shaw said the wireless division — formed with the acquisition of Wind Mobile in March 2016 — has established itself as an industry innovator.

“Through years of thoughtful and strategic capital investing, we have built a high quality, facilities-based wireless network that is capable of meeting the evolving needs of our customers and continuing to fuel Freedom’s momentum,” Shaw said in a statement.

The Calgary-based cable and wireless company said Freedom has launched in 19 new markets in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, covering an additional 1.4 million Canadians over the past year.

The wireless business remains a relatively small part of Shaw’s overall business, which includes one of Western Canada’s largest residential internet and video cable networks.

It earned $167 million in its latest quarter or 32 cents per share, down from a profit of $196 million or 38 cents per share in the same quarter last year.

Shaw said the decrease in profit was primarily due to lower equity income associated with its investment in Corus Entertainment, which was sold in May, and gains on asset sales a year ago.

Revenue for the quarter totalled $1.35 billion, up from nearly $1.33 billion a year ago.

Wireless revenue totalled $283 million, up from $241 million a year ago, while wireline revenue slipped to $1.07 billion compared with nearly $1.09 billion in the same quarter last year.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2019.

Companies in this story: (TSX:SJR.B, TSX:CJR.B)

David Paddon, The Canadian Press