BCE reports third quarter 2023 results
This news release contains forward-looking statements. For a description of the related risk factors and assumptions, please see the section entitled "Caution Regarding Forward-Looking Statements" later in this news release. The information contained in this news release is unaudited.
MONTRÉAL, Nov. 2, 2023 /CNW/ - BCE Inc. (TSX: BCE) (NYSE: BCE) today reported results for the third quarter (Q3) of 2023.
"The Bell team has demonstrated continued operational excellence, delivering results that place us in a solid position as we look ahead to the end of the year," said Mirko Bibic, President and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada.
"Bell's Q3 results reflect the positive outcome of our significant investments in broadband networks and services, a clear preference by our customers for fibre, continued momentum in our core operations, and cost containment and discipline.
Our continued investments in building high-quality networks and delivering the services that our customers want continues to pay off with a record quarter for fibre Internet net activations of 104,159, up 7.9% over last year. We are continuing to grow in wireless with 231,212 total mobile phone and connected device net subscriber activations; 142,886 of which are postpaid net subscriber activations, representing our second highest Q3 result since 2010.
I'm pleased with our overall progress this quarter. With healthy subscriber growth across the board, consistent results and disciplined execution, I'm confident in the Bell team's ability to continue delivering on our strategic priorities in the months ahead."
KEY BUSINESS DEVELOPMENTS
New BCE Director; BCE executive team update
Building the best networks and providing greater access
5G leadership and technology innovation
Delivering the most compelling content
Bell Media launched Addressable Audio and Addressable TV, delivering tailored ads to radio and TV audiences across linear programming and on-demand content. TSN+ announced subscription options with a full slate of content including NFL RedZone and PGA Tour Live. The 2023 NFL season is now available across TSN, TSN+, RDS and CTV. RDS, the official French-language broadcaster of the Montréal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, and Laval Rocket, announced 17 brand partners for the 2023-2024 Hockey Season. Bell Media discontinued operations of specialty channel VRAK after 23 years on the air.
Bell for Better: Better World, Better Communities, Better Workplace
"Our Q3 consolidated financial performance again highlights the Bell team's consistent execution and disciplined focus on profitable subscriber growth and cost management. We delivered adjusted EBITDA growth of 3.1% — our highest growth since Q2 2022 – reflecting a well-rounded performance across our core business with strong 6.1% residential Internet revenue growth, 4.7% higher consumer wireless service revenue, digital media revenue up 26% over last year and a close to 1% improvement in total operating costs," said Curtis Millen, Chief Financial Officer of BCE and Bell Canada.
"With year-to-date consolidated financial results in line with budget, we're in a great position heading into the end of the year. We remain firmly on strategy, disciplined in our execution and focused on driving costs out of the business as required to align with the revenue profiles of each of our operating segments. I'm pleased to reconfirm all our 2023 financial guidance targets."
OPERATING RESULTS BY SEGMENT
Bell Communication and Technology Services (Bell CTS)
COMMON SHARE DIVIDEND
BCE's Board of Directors has declared a quarterly dividend of $0.9675 per common share, payable on January 15, 2024 to shareholders of record at the close of business on December 15, 2023.
OUTLOOK FOR 2023
BCE confirmed its financial guidance targets for 2023, as provided on February 2, 2023, as follows:
For 2023, we expect lower tax adjustments, higher depreciation and amortization expense and increased interest expense to drive lower adjusted EPS compared to 2022. For 2023, we expect growth in adjusted EBITDA, a reduction in contributions to post-employment benefit plans and payments under other post-employment benefit plans, and lower capital expenditures will drive higher free cash flow.
Please see the section entitled "Caution Regarding Forward-Looking Statements" later in this news release for a description of the principal assumptions on which BCE's 2023 financial guidance targets are based, as well as the principal related risk factors.
CALL WITH FINANCIAL ANALYSTS
NON-GAAP AND OTHER FINANCIAL MEASURES
BCE uses various financial measures to assess its business performance. Certain of these measures are calculated in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS or GAAP) while certain other measures do not have a standardized meaning under GAAP. We believe that our GAAP financial measures, read together with adjusted non-GAAP and other financial measures, provide readers with a better understanding of how management assesses BCE's performance.
National Instrument 52-112, Non-GAAP and Other Financial Measures Disclosure (NI 52-112), prescribes disclosure requirements that apply to the following specified financial measures:
This section provides a description and classification of the specified financial measures contemplated by NI 52-112 that we use in this news release to explain our financial results except that, for supplementary financial measures, an explanation of such measures is provided where they are first referred to in this news release if the supplementary financial measures' labelling is not sufficiently descriptive.
Non-GAAP Financial Measures
A non-GAAP financial measure is a financial measure used to depict our historical or expected future financial performance, financial position or cash flow and, with respect to its composition, either excludes an amount that is included in, or includes an amount that is excluded from, the composition of the most directly comparable financial measure disclosed in BCE's consolidated primary financial statements. We believe that non-GAAP financial measures are reflective of our on-going operating results and provide readers with an understanding of management's perspective on and analysis of our performance.
Below are descriptions of the non-GAAP financial measures that we use in this news release to explain our results as well as reconciliations to the most directly comparable IFRS financial measures.
Adjusted net earnings – Adjusted net earnings is a non-GAAP financial measure and it does not have any standardized meaning under IFRS. Therefore, it is 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 equity losses (gains) on investments in associates and joint ventures, net losses (gains) on investments, early debt redemption costs, impairment of assets and discontinued operations, net of tax and NCI.
We use adjusted net earnings and we believe that certain investors and analysts use this measure, 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 equity losses (gains) on investments in associates and joint ventures, 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 directly comparable IFRS financial measure is net earnings attributable to common shareholders.
The following table is a reconciliation of net earnings attributable to common shareholders to adjusted net earnings on a consolidated basis.
Free cash flow – Free cash flow is a non-GAAP financial measure and it 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. Free cash flow shows how much cash is available to pay dividends on common shares, repay debt and reinvest in our company. We believe that 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 directly 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.
A non-GAAP ratio is a financial measure disclosed in the form of a ratio, fraction, percentage or similar representation and that has a non-GAAP financial measure as one or more of its components.
Below is a description of the non-GAAP ratio that we use in this news release to explain our results.
Adjusted EPS – Adjusted EPS is a non-GAAP ratio and it does not have any standardized meaning under IFRS. Therefore, it is unlikely to be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers.
We define adjusted EPS as adjusted net earnings per BCE common share. Adjusted net earnings is a non-GAAP financial measure. For further details on adjusted net earnings, refer to Non-GAAP Financial Measures above.
We use adjusted EPS, and we believe that certain investors and analysts use this measure, 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 equity losses (gains) on investments in associates and joint ventures, 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.
Total of Segments Measures
A total of segments measure is a financial measure that is a subtotal or total of 2 or more reportable segments and is disclosed within the Notes to BCE's consolidated primary financial statements.
Below is a description of the total of segments measure that we use in this news release to explain our results as well as a reconciliation to the most directly comparable IFRS financial measure.
Adjusted EBITDA – Adjusted EBITDA is a total of segments measure. We define adjusted EBITDA as operating revenues less operating costs as shown in BCE's consolidated income statements.
The most directly comparable IFRS financial measure is net earnings. The following table is a reconciliation of net earnings to adjusted EBITDA on a consolidated basis.
Supplementary Financial Measures
A supplementary financial measure is a financial measure that is not reported in BCE's consolidated financial statements, and is, or is intended to be, reported periodically to represent historical or expected future financial performance, financial position, or cash flows.
An explanation of such measures is provided where they are first referred to in this news release if the supplementary financial measures' labelling is not sufficiently descriptive.
KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS (KPIs)
We use adjusted EBITDA margin, blended ARPU, capital intensity, churn and subscriber (or customer or NAS) 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 BCE's financial guidance (including revenue, adjusted EBITDA, capital intensity, adjusted EPS and free cash flow), BCE's 2023 annualized common share dividend, our network deployment plans and anticipated capital expenditures as well as the benefits expected to result therefrom, the expected completion of the proposed acquisition of the Canadian business of OUTFRONT Media and the benefits expected to result therefrom, our ESG objectives, 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, commitment 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 2, 2023 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. We regularly consider potential acquisitions, dispositions, mergers, business combinations, investments, monetizations, joint ventures and other transactions, some of which may be significant. Except as otherwise indicated by us, forward-looking statements do not reflect the potential impact of any such transactions or of special items that may be announced or that may occur after November 2, 2023. 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 certain key elements of our expected financial results, as well as 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.
Canadian Economic Assumptions
Canadian Market Assumptions
Assumptions Concerning our Bell CTS Segment
Assumptions Concerning our Bell Media Segment
Financial Assumptions Concerning BCE
Assumptions underlying expected reductions in 2023 annual contributions to our pension plans
The foregoing assumptions, although considered reasonable by BCE on November 2, 2023, may prove to be inaccurate. Accordingly, our actual results could differ materially from our expectations as set forth in this news release.
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, including our 2023 financial guidance, are listed below. The realization of our forward-looking statements, including our ability to meet our 2023 financial guidance targets, essentially depends on our business performance, which, in turn, is subject to many risks. Accordingly, readers are cautioned that any of the following risks could have a material adverse effect on our forward-looking statements. These risks include, but are not limited to: the negative effect of adverse economic conditions, including a potential recession, and related inflationary cost pressures, higher interest rates and financial and capital market volatility; the negative effect of adverse conditions associated with geopolitical events; a declining level of business and consumer spending, and the resulting negative impact on the demand for, and prices of, our products and services; regulatory initiatives, proceedings and decisions, government consultations and government positions that affect us and influence our business including, without limitation, concerning mandatory access to networks, spectrum auctions, the imposition of consumer-related codes of conduct, approval of acquisitions, broadcast and spectrum licensing, foreign ownership requirements, privacy and cybersecurity obligations and control of copyright piracy; the inability to implement enhanced compliance frameworks and to comply with legal and regulatory obligations; unfavourable resolution of legal proceedings; the intensity of competitive activity and the failure to effectively respond to evolving competitive dynamics; the combination of Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. creating a Canadian competitor with larger scale, and the acquisition of Freedom Mobile by Videotron Ltd. also increasing its scale with a change in competitive dynamics in several provinces; the level of technological substitution and the presence of alternative service providers contributing to disruptions and disintermediation in each of our business segments; changing customer behaviour and the expansion of cloud-based, OTT and other alternative solutions; advertising market pressures from economic conditions, fragmentation and non-traditional/global digital services; rising content costs and challenges in our ability to acquire or develop key content; higher Canadian smartphone penetration and reduced or slower immigration flow; the inability to protect our physical and non-physical assets from events such as information security attacks, unauthorized access or entry, fire and natural disasters; the failure to implement effective data governance; the failure to evolve and transform our networks, systems and operations using next-generation technologies while lowering our cost structure; the inability to drive a positive customer experience; the failure to attract, develop and retain a diverse and talented team capable of furthering our strategic imperatives; the failure to adequately manage health and safety concerns; labour disruptions and shortages; the failure to maintain operational networks; the risk that we may need to incur significant capital expenditures to provide additional capacity and reduce network congestion; the inability to maintain service consistency due to network failures or slowdowns, the failure of other infrastructure, or disruptions in the delivery of services; service interruptions or outages due to legacy infrastructure and the possibility of instability as we transition towards converged wireline and wireless networks and newer technologies; the failure by us, or by other telecommunications carriers on which we rely to provide services, to complete planned and sufficient testing, maintenance, replacement or upgrade of our or their networks, equipment and other facilities, which could disrupt our operations including through network or other infrastructure failures; events affecting the functionality of, and our ability to protect, test, maintain, replace and upgrade, our networks, information technology (IT) systems, equipment and other facilities; the complexity of our operations; the failure to implement or maintain highly effective processes and IT systems; in-orbit and other operational risks to which the satellites used to provide our satellite TV services are subject; our dependence on third-party suppliers, outsourcers, and consultants to provide an uninterrupted supply of the products and services we need; the failure of our vendor selection, governance and oversight processes, including our management of supplier risk in the areas of security, data governance and responsible procurement; the quality of our products and services and the extent to which they may be subject to defects or fail to comply with applicable government regulations and standards; reputational risks and the inability to meaningfully integrate ESG considerations into our business strategy and operations; the failure to take appropriate actions to adapt to current and emerging environmental impacts, including climate change; pandemics, epidemics and other health risks, including health concerns about radio frequency emissions from wireless communications devices and equipment; the inability to adequately manage social issues; the failure to develop and implement strong corporate governance practices; various internal and external factors could challenge our ability to achieve our ESG targets including, without limitation, those related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging; the inability to access adequate sources of capital and generate sufficient cash flows from operating activities to meet our cash requirements, fund capital expenditures and provide for planned growth; uncertainty as to whether dividends will be declared by BCE's board of directors or whether the dividend on common shares will be increased; the inability to manage various credit, liquidity and market risks; the failure to reduce costs, as well as unexpected increases in costs; the failure to evolve practices to effectively monitor and control fraudulent activities; 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 impact on our financial statements and estimates from a number of factors; pension obligation volatility and increased contributions to post-employment benefit plans; and the expected timing and completion of the proposed acquisition of the Canadian out-of-home media business of OUTFRONT Media Inc. is subject to closing conditions and other risks and uncertainties, and there can be no certainty that the anticipated benefits will be realized.
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 2022 Annual MD&A dated March 2, 2023 and BCE's 2023 First, Second and Third Quarter MD&As dated May 3, 2023, August 2, 2023 and November 1, 2023, respectively, 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 Sedarplus.ca) and with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (available at SEC.gov). These documents are also available at BCE.ca.
Through Bell for Better, we are investing to create a better today and a better tomorrow by supporting the social and economic prosperity of our communities. This includes the Bell Let's Talk initiative, which 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 initiatives throughout the country. To learn more, please visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.
SOURCE Bell Canada
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