Quebecor Inc. has three main focuses: wireless, telecom and media. But it's the wireless division, part of Vidéotron Ltée, that is expected to drive the company's earnings as it gets set to capitalize on its $233-million purchase of spectrum licences in four provinces.
Any move into the national wireless market is at least two years away. But investors should not have to wait that long to see better things. The Montreal-based company is expected to post adjusted net profit of $70-million or 53 cents a share when it posts fourth-quarter results on Thursday, a 17-per-cent increase.
Here's a look at what to look for from the company's main components:
Quebecor recently bought wireless spectrum licences in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, a move outside its turf that opens the possibility of becoming a national wireless carrier. Wireless is a key driver for Quebecor, and could add $8 a share over the next five years even without countrywide growth, said Rob Goff, an analyst with brokerage Euro Pacific Canada in Toronto.
There is speculation that Quebecor could take a partner to help fund expansion across the country or sit on the purchase for a later sale. Canaccord Genuity analyst Dvai Ghose attributes much of the stock's 4-per-cent slide this year to "fears" over the company's national expansion plan, which would be expensive.
Mr. Goff forecasts Quebecor added a net 20,000 wireless subscribers in the quarter, down from 24,000 in the year-earlier period.
Quebecor's telecom division, which sells land-line phone service, cable TV and Internet subscriptions, is expected to post growth in revenues and profit that are about 3- to 4-per-cent higher, Mr. Goff said in a research note.
The loss of cable subscribers is expected to gain speed, down 10,000 after a loss of 2,000 customers in the year-earlier quarter. Mr. Ghose is even less optimistic, predicting a loss of 15,000 subscribers. In Internet and telephone subscriptions, he is calling for net additions of 8,000 and 3,000, respectively.
Quebecor's Sun Media is the country's biggest newspaper publisher, with 36 dailies and about 200 weeklies. As profit has plunged, the division laid off about 850 people last year and in the fourth quarter sold 74 weeklies to rival Trancontinental Media for $75-million.
While those efforts could result in an earnings surprise, Mr. Goff says Sun Media will post a 6-per-cent decline in fourth-quarter earnings.
The division is expected to contribute just 6 per cent of the parent company's earnings in 2013, down from 15 per cent in 2010.