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A Bell Canada building in Ottawa, on Sept. 7, 2022.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

BCE Inc. BCE-T saw its third-quarter profit slip by 8 per cent while its revenue rose slightly amid what its chief executive characterized as a “highly competitive marketplace.”

The Montreal-based telecom reported $707-million in profit for the three-month period ended Sept. 30, down from $771-million a year ago, while its revenue rose to $6.08-billion, from $6.02-billion.

The company attributed the lower profit to higher financing costs as a result of higher interest rates and more outstanding debt, higher depreciation and amortization expenses stemming from rapid growth in its broadband capital asset base and higher income taxes.

During a conference call to discuss the telecom’s quarterly results, CEO Mirko Bibic noted that the company increased its adjusted EBITDA margin by 0.9 percentage points, “demonstrating our proven ability to drive costs out of the business and to effectively balance growth with profitability in a highly competitive marketplace.” (EBITA stands for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization.)

BCE added 142,886 net new postpaid wireless customers during the quarter, down 14.8 per cent from a year ago. (Postpaid subscribers are those who are billed at the end of the month for the services they used, versus prepaid customers, who pay upfront for wireless services.)

The telecom said churn – the monthly rate of customer turnover – rose to 1.1 per cent (from 0.9 per cent) as competition between wireless carriers intensified.

Scotiabank analyst Maher Yaghi noted that while the company’s wireless business had a strong quarter, “numbers slightly missed the exuberant street expectations.”

“Also worth highlighting is that all the growth in wireless came from volume growth with ARPU [average revenue per user] now slightly negative,” Mr. Yaghi said in a note to clients.

Mr. Bibic said the company will continue to focus on adding “premium, accretive” wireless customers, as well as on selling its customers multi-product bundles.

“It’s about the fine balance between quantity of loads and the quality of loads,” Mr. Bibic said.

Mr. Bibic called it a “record year” for consumer internet, noting that it’s the first time that the company has added more than 100,000 net new customers within its fibre-optic broadband footprint in a given quarter. However, those fibre gains were partly offset by customer losses within BCE’s copper network, where it faced stiffer competition from rivals, bringing the total number of net new retail internet subscribers to 79,327, down from 89,652 in the third quarter of last year.

After adjusting for various items such as costs related to severance and acquisitions and losses on derivatives used for hedging, BCE had $741-million in profit during the third quarter, down 7.5 per cent from a year ago when it had $801-million in adjusted profit.

The adjusted earnings amounted to 81 cents per share, down from 88 cents per share during the same period last year.

Analysts were expecting adjusted earnings of 81 cents per share and revenue of $6.14-billion, according to the consensus estimate from S&P Capital IQ.

RBC analyst Drew McReynolds called it a “steady quarter” with results “largely in line,” while Desjardins analyst Jérome Dubreuil wrote that in order to meet its full-year guidance, the company’s growth will need to accelerate in the fourth quarter – “but it should.”

Shares of BCE rose 81 cents, or 1.5 per cent, to $53.33 in morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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