Bell Canada’s operating revenues grew by 0.2% to CAD3.8 billion (USD3.05 billion) in the fourth quarter of 2008 as growth in wireless, video and data revenues offset declines in local access, long-distance and equipment sales. For the full year, the telco’s revenues were CAD14.87 billion, an increase of 1.5% compared to 2007. Bell’s operating income was CAD520 million, or 6.6% lower than 4Q 2007, due to higher depreciation and amortisation expenses and higher restructuring costs. For the full year, Bell’s operating income was CAD2.14 million, down 19.2% on 2007. EBITDA grew by 3.0% to CAD1.38 billion in the three-month period due to growth in wireless revenues and lower wireless subscriber acquisition and retention costs, partly offset by lower wireline EBITDA. Annual EBITDA was 2.2% higher than the previous year, at CAD5.64 billion. Bell invested CAD854 million in CAPEX in the fourth quarter, up 11.8% year-on-year, and CAD2.46 billion in twelve months, up 1.8%. Capital expenditure focused on enhancing the wireless network and the continuing expansion of its fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) programme. Bell’s FTTN footprint reached 2.4 million homes at the end of 2008, and its rollout is being accelerated to pass five million homes by 2012.
Bell’s wireless client base reached 6.497 million at the end of December 2008, up 4.5% year-on-year, despite the removal of the remaining 37,000 analogue subscribers with the decommissioning of the analogue network during the quarter under review. Residential local fixed lines declined by 72,000 in the fourth quarter, an improvement from the decline of 117,000 experienced in 4Q 2007, reflecting efforts to win back customers and demand for improved Home Phone packages. Business fixed lines declined by 28,000 in the quarter, compared to a fall of 22,000 in the same period a year ago. High speed internet connections increased by 8,000 quarter-on-quarter, compared to 29,000 additions in 4Q 2007, attributed to lower overall market demand as a result of a weakening economy and high broadband penetration. At the end of 2008 Bell had 2.054 million fixed broadband customers, up 2.5% year-on-year. The group posted a fourth quarter net loss of CAD48 million compared to a year-ago profit of CAD2.35 billion.