Bell Canada adds 15,690 broadband subs in Q4, but wireline revenues decline to $2.4B

Bell Canada (NYSE: BCE) doubled the amount of net broadband customer additions, adding 15,690 subscribers during the fourth quarter, up from the 7,269 customers it added in the fourth quarter of 2012. At the end of 2013, Bell had a total 2.18 million broadband customers, a 2.7 percent increase over 2012.

Similar to the trend that AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) saw in the fourth quarter of 2013, the telco said the year-over-year improvement was driven by stronger Internet customer attach rates on its Fibe TV service bundles and the higher speeds customers can get from its growing last-mile fiber network expansion.

On the video front, Bell added 60,301 new Bell Fibe TV customers, up 25 percent from the 48,000 it added in the same period a year ago. The telco doubled its Fibe TV through ongoing expansion of the Fibe footprint and new features such as the Fibe TV wireless receiver and Fibe Remote app, ending the year with a total of 479,430 subscribers, nearly double the 248,298 subscribers it had at the end of 2012.

The Bell Fibe TV footprint reached more than 4.3 million households at the end of 2013, compared to about 3.3 million at the end of 2012. Combined Fibe TV and satellite TV additions rose 88.3 percent to 36,189, vs. 19,218 in the fourth quarter of 2012. The Bell TV subscriber base totaled 2,278,433 at the end of 2013, up 5.7 percent year-over-year.

Despite the increases in higher TV and Internet revenues, Bell's wireline operating revenues fell 0.3 percent to $2.4 billion due to ongoing legacy service losses while EBITDA grew 0.3 percent to $848 million.

Interestingly, sales of Fibe TV service bundles helped Bell narrow its residential Network Access Service (NAS) losses by 27.3 percent, or 63,281, from 87,029 last year.

Likewise, Business NAS losses improved 11.4 percent, or 32,478, compared to 36,641 in the fourth quarter of 2012. Bell said the decline in Business NAS was "supported by increased demand for new small business and wholesale service installations and fewer customer deactivations in the mass, mid-sized and wholesale customer segments."

Overall NAS declined 7.1 percent in 2013 to a total of 5.2 million customers due to aggressive cable competition and customers ditching their landline phones for wireless or an over-the-top VoIP service.

George Cope, president and CEO of Bell Canada and BCE Inc., said in the earnings release that "we reduced losses in traditional home and business landlines, supporting the positive trajectory in Bell Wireline revenue and EBITDA, and continued to decrease operating costs."

For 2014, the telco has forecast revenue growth of 2-4 percent.

Shares of BCE, Bell Canada's parent company, were listed at $42.16, up 32 cents or 0.76 percent, on the New York Stock Exchange.

For more:
- see the earnings release

Earnings summary: Wireline telecom earnings in the fourth quarter of 2013

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