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BCE earnings up 28%, Globemedia grows, too
10/29/2003

MONTREAL - Bell Canada Enterprises posted solid Internet, cellular and video gains in the third quarter ended September 30th, 2003, leading to an earnings increase of 28% to $446 million

All told, BCE brought in revenue of $4.9 billion and EBITDA of $1.9 billion in the third quarter.

The company added 124,000 cellular and PCS customers, 104,000 net high speed Internet customers and 17,000 net ExpressVu customers during the quarter. That growth of 11% saw ExpressVu count 1.352 million customers at the end of September.

In the third quarter of 2002, ExpressVu added 45,000 net subscribers, a growth rate of 31%.

ExpressVu's customer additions are not as robust as the company had hoped, said BCE CEO Michael Sabia, characterizing its customer growth as "frankly, more modest than we would like," during a conference call this morning with financial analysts. However, ExpressVu is not the only digital television distributor seeing growth soften as Star Choice and cable companies have seen their digital growth slow down.

Higher pricing, though, led to a 23% increase in revenue at ExpressVu, says the press release, rising to $192 million in the quarter. For the year so far, ExpressVu has brought in $560 million, an increase of 21%.

Things were rosy on the Bell Globemedia side of the company as the division which owns CTV, TSN, The Globe and Mail and numerous other media assets saw overall revenue growth of 8.4% to $296 million in the quarter, driven by the television division's 22% increase in ad revenue. While the success of Canadian Idol is behind some of that, along with strong summer ratings (CTV says it had 19 of the top 20-rated shows during the summer), so is rate increases charged to advertisers.

"Bell Globemedia had an exceptionally good quarter, said Sabia.

That led to an EBITDA line at Globemedia of $36 million, more than double Q3 2002. However, the division posted a loss of $1 million in the quarter, better than the $11 million loss posted in the third quarter of 2002. For the full nine months though, Bell Globemedia had net earnings of $12 million, up from the first three-quarters of 2002 when net earnings was $1 million.

For the full release, go to www.bce.ca.

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