BCE picks Nokia as first 5G network supplier, raises dividend on higher profit

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mobile phone 5g

TORONTO — Bell Canada has signed its first 5G wireless network supplier agreement with Nokia of Finland, a global rival of China’s Huawei and Ericsson of Sweden.

The parent of Bell Mobility, Virgin Mobile and Lucky Mobile said it’s ready to deliver initial fifth-generation service in urban centres across Canada this year, as 5G smartphones come to market.

The announcement by Canada’s largest telecommunications company came Thursday as its parent BCE Inc. raised its dividend and reported that its fourth-quarter profit grew more than 10 per cent compared with a year ago.

The company said it will now pay a quarterly dividend of 83.25 cents per share, up from 79.25 cents per share.

The increased payment came as BCE reported a profit attributable to common shareholders of $672 million or 74 cents per share for its fourth quarter, up from a profit of $606 million or 68 cents per share a year ago.

Operating revenue totalled nearly $6.32 billion, up from nearly $6.22 billion in the same quarter last year.

Mirko Bibic, who became president and chief executive in January, said the company did well in “a highly competitive fourth quarter.”

BCE’s wireless segment added 123,582 subscribers during the quarter, bringing the total to just under 10 million. Of the net additions during the quarter ended Dec. 31, 121,599 were post-paid, beating analyst estimates.

Canaccord Genuity had estimated Bell would add 105,000 net postpaid subscribers during the quarter, down from 122,000 for the fourth quarter of 2018.

RBC Capital Markets estimated of 104,000 net additions to its postpaid subscriber base, plus 33,000 net additions to its prepaid wireless services.

In addition to the wireless subscriber growth, BCE added 35,639 retail high-speed internet subscribers and 22,039 subscribers to its IPTV land-line television services — offset by a loss of 21,618 subscribers to its satellite TV service.

On an adjusted basis, BCE says it earned 88 cents per share for the quarter, down from an adjusted profit of 89 cents per share a year ago.

Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of 89 cents per share for the quarter, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Companies in this story: (TSX:BCE)

David Paddon, The Canadian Press