Customer service and careful pricing are priorities across Shaw Communications' operations in fiscal 2013, CEO Brad Shaw said Thursday after the company reported a 20 per cent drop in quarterly profit.
The Calgary cable and media company has added staff to deliver better service and has "dramatically" reduced call waiting times, he said.
"We have applied more rigour and discipline to our pricing, customer acquisition strategies and marketing activities," Brad Shaw said on a conference call.
"This strategy was evident in our financial results in the second half of the year and this will continue to be our focus in fiscal 2013," Brad Shaw said on a conference call.
Other cable companies such as Rogers (RCI.B) and Quebecor's Videotron (TSX:QBR.B) have also put an emphasis on customer service to help prevent customers from going to competitors.
Shaw Media operates Global Television and 19 specialty networks including HGTV Canada, Food Network Canada, History Television and Showcase and also offers high-speed Internet among its services.
In its 2013 outlook, the company said it anticipates modest growth in consolidated revenue and operating income before amortization.
It also plans to continue to enhance its network and launch a new satellite, Anik G.
However, Shaw said it expects to reduce capital investments from 2012 levels and its free cash flow to be in line with the 2012 fiscal year, which ended in August.
Meanwhile, Shaw wouldn't comment on whether it's interested in buying any of Astral Media's assets, should they come up for sale.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission recently nixed Bell's (TSX:BCE) $3.4-billion deal to take over Astral Media, saying it wasn't in the best interests of Canadians.
Bell has asked federal cabinet to intervene but so far it has shown little appetite to do so.
"It seemed to be somewhat more of a Bell-focused decision when you look at it, not so much against vertical integration in the industry...," Brad Shaw said.
"It seemed me when you read into it, it seemed to be some of the things that Bell was dealing with more specifically than from an industry point of view."
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said if it had allowed the deal, BCE would have controlled almost 45 per cent of the English TV viewership, above its threshold of 35 per cent.
Bell disagrees, saying Bell and Astral combined would have an English-language TV market share of 33.5 per cent. The discrepancy arises because Bell includes U.S. competitors in the calculations, while the CRTC does not.
In its financial results, Shaw said its net income from continuing operations fell 20 per cent to $133 million in the fourth quarter ended Aug. 31.
That's that's equal to 28 cents per diluted share — down from $167 million or 37 cents per share in the same period last year.
The Calgary-based company said non-operating items, including business acquisitions, integration and restructuring expenses, affected net income.
It also booked a $26 million loss related to an electrical fire at its Calgary headquarters. Some 900 employees were relocated to other Shaw buildings. The company had to take an asset write down of $20 million during the most recent quarter and due to the extent of the damage the building is going through an "extensive renovation."
Revenue, however, was up 2.5 per cent to $1.21 billion for the quarter compared to $1.81 billion year-over-year.
Shaw met or beat analysts' expectations. Analysts had estimated earnings per share of 28 cents and put revenue at $1.19 billion.
"Our financial performance in the quarter was solid as we balanced subscriber growth and profitability," Brad Shaw said.
In Shaw's cable division, revenue for the quarter was $803 million, an increase of two per cent, the company said.
The company had satellite revenue of $213 million in the quarter, up three per cent.
Revenue in Shaw's media division, which includes its TV channels, was up three per cent for the quarter to $217 million.
For fiscal 2012, Shaw said it earned net income from continuing operations of $761 million, up 36 per cent from last year from $559 million. Earnings per share for 2012 were $1.62 per share, versus $1.23 in 2011.
Revenue for the full year was $5 billion compared with $4.7 billion last year.
Shares in Shaw closed up 36 cents to $20.85 in trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
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