MONTREAL - Astral Media still wants to be bought by telecom giant Bell and is looking for ways to have the acquisition go ahead, CEO Ian Greenberg said Wednesday.

"We are still committed to see if there's a way to complete this transaction," Greenberg told financial analysts.

"Until we get more colour going forward, that is our focus," he said after Astral announced a 14 per cent increase in its fourth-quarter adjusted profit of $54.3 million.

Greenberg noted that Bell has extended the deadline for its $3.4-billion takeover offer for Astral to Dec. 16, and either party can extend it another month.

He added that Astral (TSX:ACM.A) is "assessing all of our alternatives" without elaborating.

BCE, which owns the CTV television network, sees Astral as a way to increase digital content for personal computers and tablets, mobile devices like smartphones as well as traditional TV screens.

The deal had been expected to close this fall, but the CRTC rejected the takeover, saying it wasn't in the best interests of Canadians.

Bell (TSX:BCE) has asked the federal cabinet to get involved. But Ottawa has suggested there's little appetite to ask the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to revisit its decision.

The CRTC said if it had allowed the deal, BCE would have controlled almost 45 per cent of the English TV viewership and almost 35 per cent of the French market.

Bell disagreed, saying it would have been under the 35 per cent limit in both the English TV market.

The discrepancy arises because Bell includes U.S. competitors in the calculations, while the CRTC did not.

Greenberg said Astral is developing an on-demand service with HBO and The Movie Network content, but the Bell-Astral merger would allow a real competitor to online movie and TV provider Netflix.

Bell has said if the deal goes ahead, it will launch such a competitor to Netflix.

In anticipation of the friendly takeover, Astral suspended its quarterly dividend last spring.

"If for any reason it doesn't happen, obviously, we would relook at our dividend policy," Greenberg said.

In its financial results, Astral's adjusted net earnings for the quarter, excluding its costs related to the Bell-Astral transaction and tax rate changes, rose to $54.3 million — up 14 per cent from $47 million a year earlier.

Net earnings including the transaction and tax-related items also rose but at a more subdued rate, increasing five per cent to $31.36 million from $29.78 million in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Its earnings per share increased to 96 cents from 85 cents per share on an adjusted basis and to 55 cents per share from 53 cents per share on a net earnings basis.

Revenue grew by two per cent to $251.8 million from $247.6 million.

Astral said it had $6.5 million in costs related to the transaction and will receive a $150-million break fee from BCE (TSX:BCE) if the transaction doesn't go ahead for regulatory reasons.

Revenues from its 25 specialty TV channels, including The Movie Network, Family and Disney Junior channels, were $140.4 million for the quarter, up one per cent from $139.6 million in the same quarter in 2011.

With its 84 radio stations, that division had revenues of $84.1 million in the quarter, up two per cent or $82.1 million in the same quarter last year.

Astral's out-of-home division with its billboards and digital advertising had revenues of $27.2 million, up six per cent from $25.7 million year-over-year.

Subscribers to its pay TV services including The Movie Network were 1.83 million as of Aug. 31, down one per cent or 1.85 million in the same period in 2011.

For fiscal 2012, Astral had a slightly higher revenue of $1.021 billion versus revenue of $1.01 billion in fiscal 2011.

Earnings per share for fiscal 2012 were $3.64 cents compared with $3.30 for fiscal 2011.

Greenberg said he expects fiscal 2013 to deliver more strong results for Astral.

"We now turn to fiscal 2013 more committed than ever to display the same level of financial discipline that made our past successes."

Astral didn't provide specific guidance on its revenue or earnings per share targets for 2013.

Besides being Canada's largest pay and specialty TV broadcaster, Astral is also the country's largest radio company with 84 stations in 50 Canadian markets and its third-largest outdoor advertising company.

Astral's pay TV services include The Movie Network and French-language Super Ecran and it has lengthy deals with U.S. cable channels HBO and Showtime for exclusive programming.

Shares in Astral closed down 95 cents, or 2.8 per cent, at $40.88 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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  • Canada's 7 Media Giants

  • Postmedia - $1.1 Billion

    Postmedia was born in 2010, when the bankrupt Canwest media chain was broken up. A consortium led by then-National Post CEO Paul Godfrey bought Canwest's newspaper assets, including the National Post, Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald, as well as both English-language dailies in Vancouver.<br> <br> Pictured: Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

  • Torstar - $1.48 Billion

    Torstar's flagship property is the Toronto Star, Canada's largest newspaper. It also owns the Metroland chain of weeklies and the internationally popular Harlequin, publisher of pulp romances.<br> <br> Pictured: The Toronto Star building in downtown Toronto.<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

  • Shaw - $4.74 Billion

    Western Canadian cable TV giant Shaw entered the media big leagues with the 2010 purchase of Canwest's broadcasting assets, including the Global TV network. The company was founded by Jim Shaw and is still controlled by his family.<br> <br> Pictured: CEO Brad Shaw<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em><br> <br> <em>CORRECTION: An earlier version of this slide stated that Shaw had purchased Canwest's newspaper assets. It only purchased the broadcasting assets. The company had backed out of an earlier attempt to buy three CTV stations.</em>

  • Quebecor - $9.8 Billion

    Founded by Pierre Peladeau and run by his son, Pierre-Karl Peladeau, Quebecor owns the Sun Media and Osprey newspaper chains, as well as cable provider Videotron, Quebec TV network TVA, and a number of publishing houses.<br> <br> Pictured: Pierre-Karl Peladeau<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

  • Rogers - $12.1 Billion

    Founded by Ted Rogers, Rogers Communications is a major player in cable TV and wireless services. The company controls Rogers Media, which operates 70 publications, 54 radio stations and a number of TV properties including CityTV and the Shopping Channel.<br> <br> Pictured: CEO Nadir Mohamed<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

  • Woodbridge (Thomson Reuters) - $13.8B

    Woodbridge is the holding company owned by the billionaire Thomson family. It controls 55 per cent of Thomson Reuters, one of the world's largest news services organizations. Woodbridge's revenue is not reported, but Thomson Reuters reported revenue of $13.8 billion in 2011.<br> <br> Pictured: The late Kenneth Thomson, company chairman, in Toronto in 2003.<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

  • Bell Canada (BCE) - $18.1 Billion

    BCE is one of Canada's largest corporations, and owns telephone, Internet and TV infrastructure. Its subsidary Bell Media purchased the CHUM group of radio stations in 2006, and Astral Media in 2012. The company also controls CTV, making it a dominant media player in Canada.<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>


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  • 8. Russia - 0%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>

  • 7. Germany - 7.1%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>

  • 6. United States - 23.1%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>

  • 5. France - 27%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>

  • 4. United Kingdom - 31%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>

  • 3. Italy - 33%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>

  • 2. Japan - 37.5%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>

  • 1. Canada - 81.4%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>


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