Shaw Communications Inc. SJR-B-T has reported a drop in revenue and wireless growth during its fourth quarter, as the company draws closer to hearing a final verdict on its $26-billion takeover by Rogers Communications Inc.
The quarter could be among the Calgary-based cable and wireless company’s last to report as an independent entity. The Competition Tribunal is expected to issue its decision on Rogers’s RCI-B-T takeover of Shaw within months after four weeks of hearings during November and oral arguments planned for mid-December. The Competition Bureau is seeking to block the merger, arguing that the deal will lessen competition in Canada.
Shaw on Tuesday reported $1.36-billion in revenue for the three-month period ended Aug. 31, down 1.5 per cent from a year ago. Its net income for the quarter was $169-million, down 33 per cent from $252-million during the same period last year, partially as a result of an $83-million increase in income taxes.
In contrast to its competitors, which grew their wireless subscriber count substantially during the most recent quarters, Shaw added just 25,600 net postpaid wireless subscribers this quarter, a 46-per-cent drop compared with last year. Postpaid subscribers are those who are billed at the end of the month for the services they used.
The company attributed the drop to increased competition and a less demand for Shaw Mobile services, which typically is bundled with its wireline offerings.
Edward Jones analyst Dave Heger said the results suggest the company could be reducing promotional activity given the coming transaction.
“We’ve seen the industry reviving pretty well following COVID, but Shaw is limping along with their subscriber numbers down year over year. It stands in pretty stark contrast,” Mr. Heger said.
The company also pulled back on its wireless network spending by $37-million during the quarter. In recent years, wireline had been the main driver of the Shaw’s growth.
The company has agreed to sell Freedom Mobile, Canada’s fourth-largest wireless carrier, to Quebecor Inc. QBR-B-T for $2.85-billion if the takeover by Rogers is approved in order to address competition concerns.
Shaw also reported a drop in wireline revenue, the latest in a long trend of gradual decline as consumers switch from cable television to streaming platforms, Mr. Heger said. While the company ramped up its spending on its wireline infrastructure by $85-million during the quarter, he said the company would need to make substantially larger investments if it hoped to compete against Telus, which has made “aggressive” moves into 5G technology in recent years.
During the third week of merger hearings, Brad Shaw, the chief executive officer and executive chair of Shaw, said the company had been losing internet and TV market share to Telus, and didn’t have the scale to invest in growing its wireless division. Mr. Shaw said the family had “looked at every option but this.”
In a release for the fourth-quarter results, Mr. Shaw said Freedom, in the hands of Videotron, would have a better chance of competing against the incumbents.
“Instead of moving ahead with the investments and long-term planning that will drive more competition, we are unfortunately delayed by litigation with the Competition Bureau. Despite this, we remain optimistic.”
The Shaw family, which controls the Calgary-based telecom through its ownership of Class A voting shares, stands to gain $2.3-billion if the merger with Rogers is successful.
After the companies and the Competition Bureau make their oral arguments next month, the Chief Justice and two lay people on the panel will decide on a verdict. With so much on the line, experts say that whatever the result, it is likely that the case will be appealed, possibly delaying the merger even further.
Shaw shares closed up by 0.11 per cent at $36.72 on Tuesday.