Shaw Communications' CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Shaw Communications (SJR)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

October 20, 2011 3:00 pm ET

Executives

Peter J. Bissonnette - President and Director

Paul Robertson - President, Television

Bradley S. Shaw - Chief Executive Officer, Director and Member of Executive Committee

Jay Mehr - Group Cable VP Operations

Analysts

Glen Campbell - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Vince Valentini - TD Newcrest Capital Inc., Research Division

Gregory W. MacDonald - Macquarie Research

Phillip Huang - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Jeffrey Fan - Scotia Capital Inc., Research Division

Maher Yaghi - Desjardins Securities Inc., Research Division

Tim Casey - BMO Capital Markets Canada

Robert Goff - NCP Northland Capital Partners Inc., Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Welcome to Shaw Communications Fiscal 2011 Fourth Quarter Conference Call. Today's call will be hosted by Mr. Brad Shaw, CEO of Shaw Communications. [Operator Instructions] And as a reminder, today's call is being recorded. Before we begin, management would like to remind listeners that comments made during today's call will include forward-looking information and there are risks that actual results could differ materially. Please refer to the company's publicly filed documents for more information on details of assumptions and risks.

Mr. Shaw, I will now turn the call over to you.

Bradley S. Shaw

Thank you, operator, and thanks to everyone for joining us today to discuss our fourth quarter and year-end results. With me today are members of our senior management team, including Peter Bissonnette, President; Steve Wilson, Chief Financial Officer; Jay Mehr, Senior Vice President of Operations; Jean Brazeau, Senior Vice President of Regulatory; Michael D'Avella, Senior Vice President of Planning; Paul Robertson, President of the Shaw Media; and Jim Cummins, Group Vice President, Shaw Satellite Operations.

Fiscal 2011 was an exciting year at Shaw as we implemented a number of strategic initiatives that were focused on providing our customers choice, flexibility and transparency, as well as the latest in technological advancement. We launched a number of innovative products and services, including the Shaw Plan Personalizer, the Shaw Gateway, and we introduced higher Internet speeds and data usage allowances for our broadband customers. We have begun the reclamation of our digital tiers, which will triple our Internet capacity. In an environment where customers are demanding higher speed and are utilizing data, intensive applications, we believe our service is truly unique versus competitive alternatives.

During the year, we completed the integration of our Media assets, and the business has proven to be a key strategic asset and a financially accretive acquisition. The division performed extremely well in fiscal 2011, as our leading portfolio of specialty channels and conventional programming benefited from the recovery in the advertising market. Based on our $2 billion purchase and the 12-month financial performance of Shaw Media for the period ending August 31, 2011, the transaction multiple represents only 6.1x consolidated EBITDA and reinforces the financial benefits of the acquisition, which closed a year ago.

Shaw is a dynamic company, a successful operator, a technology leader, and we have a proven track record of making sound financial investments for all of our stakeholders. Our decision to not pursue a conventional wireless business is consistent with our strategic DNA.

In September, we announced our plans to build a managed Wi-Fi network to extend our customers' broadband experience beyond their homes. Customers are actively seeking Wi-Fi hotspots to reduce data cost and improve their wireless broadband experience. Shaw will become the first service provider in Canada to deliver reliable wireless broadband through an extensive carrier-grade Wi-Fi network covering thousands of locations.

As we face the realities of the competitive environment within our industry, we are focused on profitability and we are very pleased to report that we delivered on our fiscal 2011 guidance. During the year, we renewed our focus on operational efficiencies and implemented restructuring initiatives. Consolidated EBITDA, including the 10-month contribution from the Media asset, exceeded $2 billion, and excluding the impact of the CRTC Part II decision in fiscal 2010, our Cable EBITDA increased by over 6% to almost $1.5 billion. Our Cable margin for the year exceeded 48%, and in the fourth quarter, our margin was one of the highest on record, whereby we achieved a Cable margin in excess of 50%.

Shaw Media had an exceptional year, and on a 12-month basis, revenue increased 7%. EBITDA increased 25% to $325 million, and free cash flow from the division was approximately $145 million for the year ending August 31. Consolidated free cash flow for fiscal 2011, which includes 10 months of the Media result, was over $600 million despite a $60 million increase in cash taxes and acceleration of certain capital investment in the fourth quarter. The accelerated investments relate mostly to our digital network upgrade, as well as deposit on the new Anik G1 satellite, which is set to launch towards the end of 2012.

The initiatives we undertook this year, the decisions we executed on, have us well positioned to move forward in this rapidly evolving landscape. We are starting the new fiscal year with a number of strategic initiatives on the agenda, including our digital network upgrade and our Wi-Fi build. We expect continued growth in revenue and EBITDA across all divisions in 2012. Investments in our various strategic party are expected to increase capital within our Cable business, and combined with a higher CRTC benefit obligation funding and cash taxes, we expect free cash flow to decline moderately to approximately $550 million.

We look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead. We have the assets, the resources and the creativity and the drive to successfully execute on our fiscal 2012 strategic plans. We believe we are well positioned to create value for all our stakeholders in 2012 and beyond.

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