Rogers Communications' CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Rogers Communications (RCI)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 24, 2012 5:00 pm ET

Executives

Bruce M. Mann - Vice President of Investor Relations

Nadir H. Mohamed - Chief Executive Officer, President, Director of Communications Division and Director

William W. Linton - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Finance

Robert W. Bruce - President of Communications Division

Anthony Staffieri -

Kenneth G. Engelhart - Former Vice President of Regulatory

Robert F. Berner - Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Network

Analysts

Adam Shine - National Bank Financial, Inc., Research Division

Phillip Huang - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Robert Bek - CIBC World Markets Inc., Research Division

Gregory W. MacDonald - Macquarie Research

Vince Valentini - TD Securities Equity Research

Jeffrey Fan - Scotiabank Global Banking and Market, Research Division

Simon Flannery - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Glen Campbell - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Dvaipayan Ghose - Canaccord Genuity, Research Division

Richard H. Prentiss - Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division

Tim Casey - BMO Capital Markets Canada

Colin Moore - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Rogers Communications' First Quarter 2012 Results Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I would like to remind everyone this conference is being recorded today, Tuesday, April 24, 2012, at 5 p.m. Eastern time. And I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Bruce Mann with the Rogers Communications management team. Please go ahead, sir.

Bruce M. Mann

Thanks very much, Luke. Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for joining Rogers for our first quarter 2012 investment community teleconference. It's Bruce Mann here. Joining me on the line in Toronto is Rogers' President and Chief Executive Officer, Nadir Mohamed; Bill Linton, our Chief Financial Officer; Rob Bruce, who's the President of our Communications division; Keith Pelley, who's President of Rogers Media; and Bob Berner, our Chief Technology Officer, as well as a couple of members and their respective teams. And also joining us is Tony Staffieri who, as we announced back in October of 2011, will be succeeding Bill as Rogers' new Chief Financial Officer shortly.

We released our Q1 results earlier this afternoon. The purpose of this call is to crisply provide you with a bit of additional background upfront, and then we're going to answer as many of your questions as time permits.

As this afternoon's remarks will -- and the discussion for that matter will undoubtedly touch on estimates and other forward-looking types of information from which our actual results could be different, you should review the cautionary language in the earnings release today and in our 2011 annual report. These include various factors and assumptions and risks as to how our actual results could differ. And all those cautions importantly apply equally to our dialogue in today's call. If you don't already have copies of both our Q1 release and our 2011 annual report to accompany the call, they're both available on the Investor Relations section of rogers.com or on the EDGAR or SEDAR website.

So with that, I'm going to turn it over to Nadir Mohamed and then Bill Linton for some brief introductory remarks, and then the management team here will take your questions. Over to you, Nadir.

Nadir H. Mohamed

Thanks, Bruce. Welcome, everyone, and thank you for joining us. As you can see from this afternoon's earnings release, we delivered a relatively balanced set of financial and subscriber results. There are some clear areas of strength, and there are some areas that we are focused on doing better over the balance of the year. Overall, the results reflect the strength of our asset mix, as well as the continuation of what is an extremely competitive period in the market.

In terms of asset mix, we are uniquely positioned as Canada's largest wireless provider, complemented by our healthy and growing Broadband and Media businesses. During the first quarter, we had strong execution in Wireless on both the sales as well as retention front. Postpaid gross additions and postpaid net additions were both up year-over-year. In fact, it was one of the strongest Q1s for postpaid gross additions in a number of years.

We made solid improvement in stabilizing one of the key metrics on the Wireless side, postpaid churn. While it was up a modest 3 basis points year-over-year, this is by far the smallest year-over-year increase we've seen in nearly 2 years and as a sequential improvement, a significant one from Q4 as well.

It was also the third straight quarter in which we've been able the slow the year-over-year rate of decline of postpaid voice ARPU, which is another key metric for us on the Wireless side. It's still obviously under pressure in the face of intense competition in the Wireless market, but we have continued to focus on managing this decline as much as possible, given the environment. While the strength of Wireless data offset much of this pressure, we still saw an overall 4% decline in postpaid ARPU.

We're also continuing to drive our wireless data strategy. Despite what was an intensely competitive environment in Q1, we activated over 640,000 smartphones, the second highest number of smartphones ever in a single quarter and the highest during the first quarter. Embedded in that and one of the drivers of expense growth in the quarter was that iPhone activations, including upgrades, were up a full 35% from Q1 of last year. This in part reflects residual demand from Q4 and last year where we are supply constrained for a good portion of the quarter.

With continued solid success in the high-value smartphone category, and we now have 60% of our postpaid subscriber base on smartphones. The smartphone metrics, ARPU, churn and upgrade rate remain healthy given the competitive backlog. And at the same time, we're both attracting and retaining our highest lifetime value customers, which is squarely on our strategy. As a result, we continue to drive double-digit revenue growth in our Wireless Data business, which is the most significant driver of our top line.

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