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Rogers continues COVID recovery

Emerging further from its COVID-19 funk, Rogers Communications posted stronger financial and subscriber metrics Wednesday for its latest fiscal quarter.

The Toronto-based cable, wireless and media conglomerate reported higher revenues, profits and subscriber numbers across the board for Q2 2021 as it benefitted from a gradual re-opening of the Canadian economy during the spring. Its media division performed particularly well, thanks largely to the return of full MLB, NBA and NHL action after the shortened and delayed seasons of 2020. At the same time, the company's cable division continued making steady gains while its wireless unit continued to recover from the pandemic lockdowns of last year and earlier this year.

As a result, Rogers reported that its total revenues rose to nearly C$3.6 billion ($2.9 billion) in Q2, up 14% from the year-ago period. Likewise, total service revenues climbed 12% to more than C$3.1 billion ($2.5 billion) while net income increased 8% to C$302 million ($240 million).

On their earnings call with financial analysts Wednesday morning, Rogers executives credited the gains to the re-opening of the Canadian economy and the company's ability to pivot quickly in the changing landscape.

"Our solid performance in the second quarter is a result of strong execution across each of our business units as the economy continues to recover from pandemic lockdowns," said Joe Natale, president and CEO of Rogers.

Segment breakdown

Breaking down the results by the company's three main segments, Rogers' media division played the starring role this time, with revenues surging 84% to C$546 million ($435 million) in the spring quarter. The company, which owns baseball's Toronto Blue Jays franchise, attributed the huge gain to "higher advertising and Toronto Blue Jays revenue as a result of the resumption of live sports as COVID-19 restrictions were eased."

Rogers' larger cable division turned in another solid quarter, as its revenues rose to just over C$1 billion ($800 million), up 5% on a year-over-year basis. The company credited the increase to both price hikes for its broadband and IPTV products and continued subscriber gains. It netted 9.000 Internet and 66,000 Ignite TV customers in Q2, boosting its sub totals to more than 2.8 million and 668,000, respectively.

With 4.6 million homes now passed by its cable and fiber lines, Rogers officials highlighted the progress they are making in extending broadband to unserved and underserved regions across their wide footprint and boosting maximum downstream speeds to 1.5 Gbit/s over their networks. They also stated the company's commitment to upgrade its cable plant to the new DOCSIS 4.0 specs, which will enable multi-gig speeds both down and up.

Rogers' wireless division, which is the company's largest unit, logged more modest gains, with service revenues edging up 2% to just over C$1.6 billion ($1.3 billion) in Q2. The operator added 99,000 new wireless postpaid subscribers in the quarter, boosting its total to more than 9.8 million. Including its nearly 1.2 million pre-paid subscribers, Rogers now serves about 11 million wireless customers.

On the earnings call, Rogers executives boasted that they have now extended 5G service to more than 700 communities, reaching over 50% of Canadians. They aim to increase that total to 1,000 communities by the end of the year, giving them 5G coverage of more than 70% of the nation's population. "We're on track to reach 70% of Canadians [with 5G] and we're going to keep going," Natale said.

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— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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