Cable Tech

Shaw stands by merger despite Rogers family feud

Despite the boardroom brawl that has broken out at Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications says it remains committed to its pending $20.8 billion merger with Rogers.

In the company's Q4 fiscal report released on Friday, Shaw CEO Brad Shaw stated that the management team "reiterate our continued commitment to work with Rogers to close the transaction." He added that "it is not appropriate for Shaw to comment on recent events at Rogers."

Brad Shaw's written statement of faith in the Rogers deal comes as an increasingly nasty boardroom fight between members of the Rogers family rages on at the Toronto-based cable and wireless provider. Edward Rogers, the son of the late Rogers founder, Ted Rogers, is now battling with his two sisters and mother for control of the Rogers board.

In the latest move, Edward Rogers asked the British Columbia Supreme Court last week to legitimize the new board that he formed after he was ousted as board chair by his sisters. Those moves followed his failed attempt to oust company CEO Joe Natale and replace him with the company's now-departed chief financial officer, Tony Staffieri. The court was scheduled to hold a hearing on the dispute today.

Brad Shaw declined to say any more about the Rogers affair beyond those brief comments. For the second straight quarter, the company did not hold an earnings call with analysts.

With the escalating Rogers family feud serving as the backdrop for its fiscal Q4 earnings report, Shaw continues to exhibit a split personality, adding bunches of new subscribers on the wireless side while losing nearly as many on the wireline side.

On the plus side, Shaw reported Friday that it added 60,500 wireless customers and generated double-digit percentage revenue gains in its 2021 fiscal fourth quarter, which ended August 31. The gain pushed its total wireless customer base to more than 2.1 million, capping off a year that saw it pick up about 295,000 new customers, up from 160,000 new subs in fiscal 2020.

As usual, postpaid subs accounted for the lion's share of that gain for Shaw, with the operator adding 48,100 postpaid customers. In its Q4 earnings release, the company, which once again did not hold an earnings call with analysts, attributed the gain to "the continued momentum of Shaw Mobile," its new discount wireless service.

"Wireless service revenue growth of 10.4% is due to continued subscriber growth, partially offset by lower ARPU," Shaw reported in its earnings release. "As the Company continues to scale its lower revenue Shaw Mobile customer base, fourth quarter Wireless ARPU decreased 5.7% from the prior-year period to $37.39. However, an increase in customers signing up for bundled offerings and Internet migration to faster speed tiers continues to support Internet revenue growth."

At the same time, though, Shaw shed cable phone, cable video and satellite video subscribers in the fourth quarter, losing nearly 50,000 consumer revenue-generating units (RGUs) in total. It only eked out a small sub gain on the broadband side, netting about 5,100 new data customers. For the full fiscal year, Shaw lost a total of almost 259,000 consumer RGUs, including 14,000 broadband customers, at a time when most cable operators are raking in new broadband subs.

As a result, Shaw finished its fiscal year with 1.89 million broadband subs and 1.28 million cable video customers, down nearly 108,000 for the year. It also chalked up annual losses of 60,000 satellite video subs and 77,000 cable phone subs, lowering its respective totals to 591,000 and 596,000.

Yet the wireless advances still powered strong financial gains for Shaw. For Q4, the operator reported that net income soared 44% to C$252 million (US$203.7 million), or 50 cents per diluted share. That's up from a profit of C$175 million ($141.5 million), or 34 cents per diluted share, in the same quarter a year ago. Revenue totaled C$1.38 billion ($1.1 billion), up from C$1.35 billion ($1.09 billion) the previous year.

For the full year, Shaw reported net income of C$986 million ($797.2 million), or C$1.94 per diluted share. That's up from a profit of C$688 million (S556.3 million), or CS1.32 per diluted share, in fiscal 2020. Revenue totaled C$5.51 billion ($4.45 billion), up from C$5.41 billion ($4.37 billion) in the previous year.

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

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