Shaw Communications (SJR) Q1 2012 Earnings Call January 12, 2012 3:30 pm ET Executives Peter J. Bissonnette - President and Director Paul Robertson - Bradley S. Shaw - Chief Executive Officer, Director and Member of Executive Committee Steve Wilson - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President Jay Mehr - Analysts Peter MacDonald - GMP Securities L.P., Research Division Glen Campbell - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division Blair Abernethy - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division Drew McReynolds - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division Gregory W. MacDonald - Macquarie Research Phillip Huang - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division Jeffrey Fan - Scotia Capital Inc., Research Division Dvaipayan Ghose - Canaccord Genuity, Research Division Maher Yaghi - Desjardins Securities Inc., Research Division Tim Casey - BMO Capital Markets Canada Robert Goff - NCP Northland Capital Partners Inc., Research Division Vince Valentini - TD Securities Equity Research Presentation Operator .
Another fiscal year is underway, and we are extremely proud of the fact that 2012 marks a significant milestone in Shaw's history. As we are celebrating 40 years of growth and success in Canada, we have a superb leadership team in our tradition of employee commitment engagement that resonates throughout our organization. The Shaw team of over 13,000 employees drives and delivers results for all of our stakeholders. Our goal this year is to continue our history and our track record of delivering exceptional products and service through our 3.1 million customers across the country and to create value for our shareholders.Fiscal 2012 is off to a good start, as first quarter financial results were solid and we've generated almost $120 million in free cash flow. Recently, there's been some concern regarding our approach to the competitive environment. Promotional activity has been a reality in our business for a number of years and has been embedded in our financial results. In the past, a lot of our promotional activity has been tactical and not necessarily in the public or media spotlight. Beginning in the latter part of 2011, we embarked on a strategy that entailed more mass marketing of some of our offers. This does not represent a doubling down of the promotional activity, as we have simply shifted some of our tactics towards our promotional efforts. We remain focused on balancing subscriber results and profitability and continuing to maintain our industry-leading margin performance. Over the years, we have made a number of strategic decisions that have positioned our company with a strong portfolio of assets. We are well-situated, both from a strategic and financial perspective, to compete and grow our business. Our assets continue to yield solid financial results and generate substantial amounts of free cash flow, and today, we confirmed our fiscal 2012 guidance. We expect continued growth in revenue and EBITDA across all of our divisions. And due to some strategic investments during the year, it is expected that capital will increase compared to 2011 levels. Considering this and other factors, including higher CRTC benefit obligations, free cash flow for the year is estimated to be approximately $550 million.
We've just concluded our board meeting and AGM, and we are pleased to announce a 5% dividend increase to an annual rate of $0.97 per share. The higher dividend rate becomes effective at the beginning of Q3 and total dividend payments for fiscal 2012 are expected to be approximately $415 million.We continue to focus on the execution of our strategic initiatives that we announced last year. Our digital network upgrade is well underway with over 50% of our customers now converted. The reclamation of additional bandwidth will provide us with the ability to triple our Internet speeds and create capacity to offer substantial increases in HD and VOD services. We continue to evolve our products and service offerings with enhancements that are geared towards improving flexibility, transparency and value for our customers. This includes the Shaw Plan Personalizer, easy-own hardware options and our broadband leadership. During the quarter, we also announced our partnership with Motorola regarding our new DreamGallery Guide. This improved interface is expected to be launched in the spring of 2012. We launched our Wi-Fi trial on December 6 in Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver, and we continue to add sites. We continue to believe that Wi-Fi will extend the value proposition of our customers' Internet services beyond the home and will reinforce our broadband leadership position. We remain bullish on our goal to expand Shaw products and services within the business market across Western Canada, and this will continue to be a priority and focus for our company going forward. Our recent announcement regarding the city of Calgary contract is an example of the substantial opportunities that exist within this market, and we look forward to winning some of the incumbent's market share. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com