BCE reports third quarter 2020 results
This news release contains forward-looking statements. For a description of related risk factors and assumptions, please see the section entitled "Caution Regarding Forward-Looking Statements" and the other relevant sections of this news release.
MONTRÉAL, Nov. 5, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ - BCE Inc. (TSX: BCE) (NYSE: BCE) today reported results for the third quarter (Q3) of 2020.
"With a steadfast focus on our long-term strategy throughout the challenges of 2020, the Bell team continues to deliver the benefits of next-generation network and service investment to our shareholders, customers and communities. In Q3, Bell's innovation leadership drove operational and financial momentum across our business segments, while our infrastructure, technology and community investments supported Canada's COVID response and ongoing recovery," said Mirko Bibic, President and Chief Executive Officer of BCE and Bell Canada. "Diligent execution by the Bell team in an improving economy, which included the re-opening of retail sales and service for wireless, Internet and TV and the return of live sports programming supporting advertising growth, resulted in significantly improved financial performance and broadband customer additions compared to Q2, with Bell welcoming 210,000 net new retail Internet, IPTV and wireless customers."
"Enabled by the enduring strength of BCE's financial position and continued free cash flow generation, Bell is keeping Canadians connected and informed while also building a solid foundation for the long term," said Mr. Bibic. "Our industry-leading investments in network quality and capacity continue to reinforce Canada's COVID response, and we're expanding the country's fastest mobile 5G network and advanced broadband Internet services for rural and urban Canadians alike. Throughout the challenges of the year, Bell continued to champion customer experience, introducing the dedicated Move Valet service, full residential self-install options and Bell Virtual Office solutions for business customers refining their remote work operations, while also enhancing digital customer service and online sales options."
KEY BUSINESS DEVELOPMENTS
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Bell Let's Talk Community Fund 2020
BCE Q3 RESULTS
"Despite the ongoing effects of the COVID crisis, all Bell operating segments delivered better performance trajectories and improved revenue and adjusted EBITDA results compared to Q2, contributing to Q3 free cash flow of over $1 billion and bringing total cash generation this year to more than $3.25 billion, 14% higher than in 2019," said Glen LeBlanc, Chief Financial Officer for BCE and Bell Canada. "BCE's outstanding liquidity position and well-structured balance sheet, including a fully funded pension plan, provides the financial strength and flexibility to support our substantial capital investments in network, service and content innovation while enabling ongoing dividend returns for BCE shareholders."
Q3 Subscriber Highlights
Q3 OPERATING RESULTS BY SEGMENT
COMMON SHARE DIVIDEND
BCE's underlying business fundamentals remain strong. Our strong liquidity position, underpinned by a healthy balance sheet, substantial free cash flow generation and access to the debt and bank capital markets, is expected to provide significant financial flexibility to execute on our planned capital expenditures and sustain BCE's common share dividend payments for the foreseeable future.
See BCE's Q3 2020 MD&A for more information on the historical and future potential impacts of COVID-19 on our business, financial condition, liquidity and financial results, including, without limitation, the introduction to section 1, Overview, section 1.3, Assumptions, section 4.7, Liquidity and section 7, Business risks.
CALL WITH FINANCIAL ANALYSTS
A live audio webcast of the conference call will be available on BCE's website at BCE Q3-2020 conference call. The mp3 file will be available for download on this page later in the day.
(1) In Q2 2020, we updated our definitions of adjusted net earnings, adjusted EPS and free cash flow to exclude the impacts of discontinued operations as they may affect the comparability of our financial results and could potentially distort the analysis of trends in business performance. As a result of this change, prior periods have been restated for comparative purposes.
(2) The terms adjusted net earnings and adjusted EPS do not have any standardized meaning under IFRS. Therefore, they are unlikely to be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers. We define adjusted net earnings as net earnings attributable to common shareholders before severance, acquisition and other costs, net mark-to-market losses (gains) on derivatives used to economically hedge equity settled share-based compensation plans, net losses (gains) on investments, early debt redemption costs, impairment of assets and discontinued operations, net of tax and non-controlling interest (NCI). We define adjusted EPS as adjusted net earnings per BCE common share. We use adjusted net earnings and adjusted EPS, and we believe certain investors and analysts use these measures, among other ones, to assess the performance of our businesses without the effects of severance, acquisition and other costs, net mark-to-market losses (gains) on derivatives used to economically hedge equity settled share-based compensation plans, net losses (gains) on investments, early debt redemption costs, impairment of assets and discontinued operations, net of tax and NCI. We exclude these items because they affect the comparability of our financial results and could potentially distort the analysis of trends in business performance. Excluding these items does not imply they are non-recurring. The most comparable IFRS financial measures are net earnings attributable to common shareholders and EPS. The following table is a reconciliation of net earnings attributable to common shareholders and EPS to adjusted net earnings on a consolidated basis and per BCE common share (adjusted EPS), respectively.
(3) The terms adjusted EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA margin do not have any standardized meaning under IFRS. Therefore, they are unlikely to be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers. We define adjusted EBITDA as operating revenues less operating costs, as shown in BCE's consolidated income statements. Adjusted EBITDA for BCE's segments is the same as segment profit as reported in Note 4, Segmented information, in BCE's Q3 2020 consolidated Financial Statements. We define adjusted EBITDA margin as adjusted EBITDA divided by operating revenues. We use adjusted EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA margin to evaluate the performance of our businesses as they reflect their ongoing profitability. We believe certain investors and analysts use adjusted EBITDA to measure a company's ability to service debt and to meet other payment obligations or as a common measurement to value companies in the telecommunications industry. We believe that certain investors and analysts also use adjusted EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA margin to evaluate the performance of our businesses. Adjusted EBITDA is also one component in the determination of short-term incentive compensation for all management employees. Adjusted EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA margin have no directly comparable IFRS financial measure. Alternatively, the following table provides a reconciliation of net earnings to adjusted EBITDA.
(4) The term free cash flow does not have any standardized meaning under IFRS. Therefore, it is unlikely to be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers. We define free cash flow as cash flows from operating activities, excluding cash from discontinued operations, acquisition and other costs paid (which include significant litigation costs) and voluntary pension funding, less capital expenditures, preferred share dividends and dividends paid by subsidiaries to NCI. We exclude cash from discontinued operations, acquisition and other costs paid and voluntary pension funding because they affect the comparability of our financial results and could potentially distort the analysis of trends in business performance. Excluding these items does not imply they are non-recurring. We consider free cash flow to be an important indicator of the financial strength and performance of our businesses because it shows how much cash is available to pay dividends on common shares, repay debt and reinvest in our company. We believe certain investors and analysts use free cash flow to value a business and its underlying assets and to evaluate the financial strength and performance of our businesses. The most comparable IFRS financial measure is cash flows from operating activities. The following table is a reconciliation of cash flows from operating activities to free cash flow on a consolidated basis.
(5) We use ABPU, churn, capital intensity and subscriber units to measure the success of our strategic imperatives. These key performance indicators are not accounting measures and may not be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers.
CAUTION REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
Certain statements made in this news release are forward-looking statements. These statements include, without limitation, statements relating to the potential impacts on our business, financial condition, liquidity and financial results of the COVID-19 pandemic, the expectation that BCE's liquidity position will provide the necessary financial strength and flexibility to support its capital investments and sustain its dividend payments, our network deployment and capital investment plans, BCE's business outlook, objectives, plans and strategic priorities, and other statements that are not historical facts. Forward-looking statements are typically identified by the words assumption, goal, guidance, objective, outlook, project, strategy, target and other similar expressions or future or conditional verbs such as aim, anticipate, believe, could, expect, intend, may, plan, seek, should, strive and will. All such forward-looking statements are made pursuant to the 'safe harbour' provisions of applicable Canadian securities laws and of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.
Forward-looking statements, by their very nature, are subject to inherent risks and uncertainties and are based on several assumptions, both general and specific, which give rise to the possibility that actual results or events could differ materially from our expectations expressed in or implied by such forward-looking statements and that our business outlook, objectives, plans and strategic priorities may not be achieved. These statements are not guarantees of future performance or events, and we caution you against relying on any of these forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements contained in this news release describe our expectations as of November 5, 2020 and, accordingly, are subject to change after such date. Except as may be required by applicable securities laws, we do not undertake any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements contained in this news release, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Except as otherwise indicated by BCE, forward-looking statements do not reflect the potential impact of any special items or of any dispositions, monetizations, mergers, acquisitions, other business combinations or other transactions that may be announced or that may occur after November 5, 2020. The financial impact of these transactions and special items can be complex and depends on the facts particular to each of them. We therefore cannot describe the expected impact in a meaningful way or in the same way we present known risks affecting our business. Forward-looking statements are presented in this news release for the purpose of assisting investors and others in understanding our objectives, strategic priorities and business outlook, and in obtaining a better understanding of our anticipated operating environment. Readers are cautioned that such information may not be appropriate for other purposes.
Important risk factors that could cause our assumptions and estimates to be inaccurate and actual results or events to differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, our forward-looking statements include, without limitation: pandemics, epidemics and other public health risks including, in particular, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the uncertainty of its severity and duration, including resurgences in the number of cases and the re-introduction of emergency measures, and the adverse effects thereof; our inability to access adequate sources of capital and generate sufficient cash flows from operating activities to meet our cash requirements; our failure to maintain operational networks in the context of significant increases in capacity demands; the risk that we may need to make significant capital expenditures in order to provide additional capacity and reduce network congestion, and implement additional sanitation and safety procedures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; our inability to drive a positive customer experience; labour disruptions and shortages; our dependence on third-party suppliers, outsourcers and consultants to operate our business; uncertainty as to whether dividends will be declared by BCE's board of directors or whether the dividend on common shares will be increased; pension obligation volatility and increased contributions to post-employment benefit plans; regulatory initiatives, proceedings and decisions, and government consultations, positions, actions and measures that affect us and influence our business; the intensity of competitive activity, including from new and emerging competitors, coupled with the launch of new products and services; the level of technological substitution and the presence of alternative service providers contributing to the acceleration of disruptions and disintermediation in each of our business segments; the adverse effect of changing viewer habits and the expansion of OTT TV on subscriber and viewer growth and on the advertising market; rising content costs, as an increasing number of domestic and global competitors seek to acquire the same content, and challenges in our ability to acquire or develop key content; the proliferation of content piracy impacting our ability to monetize products and services, as well as creating bandwidth pressure; higher Canadian smartphone penetration and increased device costs could challenge subscriber growth and cost of acquisition and retention; the inability to protect our physical and non-physical assets from events such as information security attacks, fire and natural disasters; the failure to transform our operations, enabling a truly customer-centric service experience, while lowering our cost structure; the failure to continue investment in next-generation capabilities; the complexity in our operations resulting from multiple technology platforms, billing systems, sales channels, marketing databases and a myriad of rate plans, promotions and product offerings; the failure to implement or maintain highly effective IT systems; the failure to generate anticipated benefits from our corporate restructurings, system replacements and upgrades, staff reductions, process redesigns and the integration of business acquisitions; our failure to test, maintain, replace or upgrade our networks, IT systems, equipment and other facilities; in-orbit and other operational risks to which the satellites used to provide our satellite TV services are subject; the failure to attract and retain employees with the appropriate skill sets and to drive their performance in a safe environment; changes to our base of suppliers or outsourcers that we may decide on or be required to implement; the failure of our vendor selection, governance and oversight processes; security and data leakage exposure if security control protocols affecting our suppliers are bypassed; the quality of our products and services and the extent to which they may be subject to manufacturing defects or fail to comply with applicable government regulations and standards; the inability to manage various credit, liquidity and market risks; new or higher taxes due to new tax laws or changes thereto or in the interpretation thereof, and the inability to predict the outcome of government audits; the failure to reduce costs, as well as unexpected increases in costs; the failure to evolve practices to effectively monitor and control fraudulent activities; the unfavourable resolution of legal proceedings and, in particular, class actions; new or unfavourable changes in applicable laws and the failure to proactively address our legal and regulatory obligations; the failure to recognize and adequately respond to climate change concerns or public and governmental expectations on environmental matters; and health concerns about radiofrequency emissions from wireless communication devices and equipment.
We caution that the foregoing list of risk factors is not exhaustive and other factors could also adversely affect our results. We encourage investors to also read BCE's 2020 Third Quarter MD&A dated November 4, 2020 for additional information with respect to certain of these and other assumptions and risks, filed by BCE with the Canadian provincial securities regulatory authorities (available at Sedar.com) and with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (available at SEC.gov). This document is also available at BCE.ca.
BCE is Canada's largest communications company, providing advanced Bell broadband wireless, TV, Internet and business communications services alongside Canada's premier content creation and media assets from Bell Media. To learn more, please visit Bell.ca or BCE.ca.
The Bell Let's Talk initiative promotes Canadian mental health with national awareness and anti-stigma campaigns like Bell Let's Talk Day and significant Bell funding of community care and access, research and workplace leadership initiatives. To learn more, please visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.
SOURCE Bell Canada
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