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The Quebecor headquarters in Montreal, photographed on Oct. 6, 2014.

The Canadian Press

Quebecor Inc.’s quarterly dividend will rise 78 per cent with its next payment to shareholders in April, the company announced Thursday along with a higher fourth-quarter profit and adjusted earnings that beat analyst estimates.

The Montreal-based company said its quarterly dividend will rise to 20 cents per share, payable April 21, up from 11.25 cents.

Quebecor’s net income attributable to shareholders for the fourth quarter rose to $145.1 million or 57 cents per share, up from $117.5 million or 46 cents per share in the same period in 2018.

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Its adjusted income from continuing operations amounted to $159.6 million or 63 cents per share in the fourth quarter of 2019, compared with $132.9 million or 52 cents per share in the final three months of 2018.

Analysts on average had expected 60 cents per share of adjusted earnings, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Revenue for the quarter ended Dec. 31 totalled nearly $1.14 billion, up from nearly $1.09 billion in the same period a year earlier and slightly above analyst estimates.

Quebecor owns of one of Canada’s largest broadcasting and entertainment businesses, largely focused on Quebec’s francophone market, as well as the Videotron regional wireless, internet and cable networks.

Company executives told analysts in a conference call that they’ve cut back on future investments for Videotron networks due to a 2019 regulatory decision that aims to slash the rates it charges for wholesale internet access.

Jean-Francois Pruneau, Videotron’s president and CEO, told analysts that Quebecor sees a number of regulatory issues to be interrelated, including a CRTC decision in August that’s being challenged by all Canada’s major telecom groups.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ruled Aug. 15 that wholesale rates for internet landlines had to come down by as much as 72 per cent – a decision that’s under appeal.

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Another concern for Videotron is the CRTC’s regulatory review of wholesale rules for the wireless industry, as well as a federal political push to drive down what Rogers, Bell and Telus charge for mainstream wireless services.

Pruneau said that as “rational and prudent investors, we look at our investment program, and we think that we have to pull back on some investments.”

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