The chief executive officer of Rogers Communications Inc. is striking a new aggressive tone, directly calling out his competitors as he strives to convince investors his strategy to turn around the fortunes of the wireless, cable and media company is on the right track.
During a conference call on Thursday, Guy Laurence referred to rival BCE Inc. as a "cry baby" and chided pessimistic analysts – singling one out by name – for focusing too much on "little spikes in the odd figure here or there" in the company's third-quarter results, which showed a 28-per-cent drop in profit.
"I saw some of the headlines this morning which I thought were a little bit sensationalist and, not pointing out anyone in particular – Dvai – but I really think that to be honest, these are little vibrations here and there and that actually we are in a good place right now," he said, referring to Canaccord Genuity analyst Dvai Ghose.
As the one-year anniversary of his start-date approaches, a clearer picture is emerging of what the Guy Laurence era at Rogers will look like. The former Vodafone UK Ltd. CEO, who is still implementing a massive overhaul of Rogers' corporate structure, is coming out swinging at anyone who challenges the company and demanding patience as he works to produce results.
The bombastic approach stands in contrast to his predecessor Nadir Mohamed's restrained but thoughtful style.
It's also a contrast to other Canadian telecom leaders, who often avoid mentioning their competitors by name.
Rogers and BCE are now embroiled in a fight over the GamePlus, a mobile application which lets hockey fans experiment with different camera angles – such as the "ref cam" from the referee's helmet – on their mobile devices, but only if they are Rogers customers.
The app is a complement to Rogers' GameCentre Live streaming platform for National Hockey League content, to which customers of any wireless or Internet provider can subscribe. BCE says by offering the GamePlus app only to its own subscribers, Rogers is violating the CRTC's vertical integration rules and acting anti-competitively.
BCE's complaint to the CRTC was made public Tuesday and when asked about it Thursday, Mr. Laurence responded, "With respect to cry baby Bell, what can I say?" He went on to say BCE is trying to "stifle innovation" in hockey and expressed confidence in Rogers' compliance with the rules.
BCE argues consumers are angry with the content being exclusively available to Rogers customers. "Restricting hockey access to a selected few when everyone's paid the same price and the features are on regular TV anyway, that's not innovation," BCE spokesman Mark Langton said Thursday. (BCE owns 15 per cent of The Globe and Mail.)
Mr. Laurence's remarks Thursday followed a public critique of western rival Telus Corp. on Oct. 1, when he appeared at a hearing of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications examining the state of competition in the wholesale wireless market.
"I think it was good to hear that Telus don't know how to run a network," Mr. Laurence said, referring to Telus's contention a day earlier that because it has less cellular spectrum than Rogers and BCE do, it does not have the capacity on its wireless network to offer widespread wholesale access to new competitors.
"I don't believe it," he added. (For its part, Telus maintains that its engineers are skilled at managing its spectrum deficit, which it says is a true challenge.)
"His tone and the stuff about Bell, ultimately I don't really care about all that," analyst Mr. Ghose said Thursday. "It's can he deliver or not?"
Mr. Ghose said three items stood out to him from Rogers' third-quarter results: The trend on average revenue per user (ARPU) was positive, but numbers on customer turnover – or churn – were "terrible," and on Rogers' bet on NHL content, "the jury's still very much out," he said.
Rogers, which is still the country's largest cellular carrier with 9.5-million subscribers, reported that overall sales grew 1 per cent in the third quarter to $3.25-billion, in line with analyst expectations.
But profit fell 28 per cent to $332-million, compared to net income of $464-million in the same quarter last year. Adjusted earnings per share of 79 cents fell short of analyst projections for 88 cents per share.
Rogers shares closed down 1.45 per cent, or 63 cents, at $42.80 on the Toronto Stock Exchange Thursday following the earnings miss.
Revenue was up 2 per cent at Rogers' all-important wireless division, but fell 1 per cent at the cable division and came in flat at its media business.
Rogers added fewer post-paid cellular customers than expected, but overall wireless ARPU improved to $60.96, up 15 cents from this time last year. The churn rate remained stubbornly high at 1.31 per cent for postpaid customers, up from 1.23 per cent this time last year.
Mr. Laurence dismissed concerns about churn several times Thursday, noting he is focused on value over volume, and said much of the turnover could be attributed to losing lower-value subscribers.