Quebecor turns attention to NHL team

The corporate logo of Quebecor is shown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

MONTREAL - A new arena and professional hockey team in Quebec City would provide Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B) with access to content for its media and telecommunications businesses, CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau said Thursday.

The Montreal-based company has won the contract to manage the $400-million arena, which won't be ready for several years, and is working to bring an NHL team back to the provincial capital — formerly home to the Nordiques.

"We now have all of the tools required to focus on developing strong relationships and partnerships with international entertainment performers and the National Hockey League," Peladeau told analysts Thursday.

"Our agreement with Quebec City for the management of a new facility that will be built by September 2015 also contributes to our objective of diversifying and complementing our content offerings," Peladeau said during a conference call.

Quebecor — owner of the Videotron cable and phone business as well as television, newspaper, Internet, book and retail businesses — announced earlier that it had an 83 per cent increase to its fourth quarter profit.

The company takes its French-language content and puts it across multiple platforms such as its mobile phone and on-demand services and on multiple TV channels and in its print publications.

In its quarterly report, Quebecor said its telecommunications division lead growth in earnings growth.

The company posted net income attributable to shareholders of $85.4 million, or $1.34 per share, up from $46.6 million, or 70 cents per share.

But Peladeau acknowledged that growth in the wireless division slowed in the quarter because consumers were buying Apple iPhones during the Christmas season, a device that Quebecor's wireless service doesn't offer.

"Although we would welcome from a customer perspective the presence of Apple products in our suite of devices, we're becoming increasingly concerned about the carriers' unfavourable economics resulting from the high cost of subsidizing the iPhone," Peladeau said.

The iPhone handsets usually cost consumers less than its actual value because of the subsidy that wireless carriers provide, in turn for signing up for a three-year contract with a data plan.

Quebecor's adjusted income from continuing operations declined to $55.6 million in the fourth quarter, or 87 cents per share, falling short of analyst expectations for 89 cents per share, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters.

A year earlier, in the fourth quarter of 2010, adjusted profit was $58.2 million, or 90 cents a share.

Revenues rose to $1.15 billion for the period, a gain of $59.8 million from the same quarter of 2010.

Peladeau also noted that Quebecor laid off 400 employees last fall, or eight per cent of its workforce, mainly in backoffice and business support positions to cut costs.

Quebecor Inc. had already announced that profits in its Videotron division rose by 69 per cent in the quarter. The provider of cable TV, Internet and wireless services posted earnings of $161.9 million on Tuesday, up from $96 million a year earlier.

TVA Group Inc. (TSX:TVA.B), the company's French-language television and magazine subsidiary, had lower profits for the last three months of 2011 on specialty channel losses.

TVA's net income in the fourth quarter was $11.5 million, or 48 cents per share, down from $19.3 million, or 81 cents per share a year earlier.

Sun Media Corp., which owns English-language publications in several provinces, has announced plans to launch four weekly newspapers in Ottawa, Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph, Ont., reaching more than 400,000 homes.