In The Money

*Specialty, pay-TV is good business at Astral

Astral Communications chairman Andre Bureau says the company’s bright financial performance in the first nine months of fiscal 1999 is ‘primarily attributable to strong demand for our broadcasting services on all distribution systems.’

A crtc decision authorizing Astral’s $224-million takeover of Radiomutuel – a decision expected by year’s end – would mean Astral and its partners will launch three of the four newly licensed French-track specialty channels set to air in January 2000.

Bureau says ‘all but one or two’ of Canada’s 50 pay and specialty tv channels are, in fact, profitable.

After nine months, Astral reports net profits are up 20% to $10.4 million based on revenues of $293.5 million, a 27% hike over the $231.4 million top line recorded last year.

eps in the period ending May 31 is up 16% to $0.74 based on an average number of 14,049,000 shares outstanding. EBITDA increased 19% to $32 million, while cash flow from operations is up 16% to $21.2 million, or $1.51 per share.

*CHUM posts gains in first nine months

For the nine months ended May 31, 1999, CHUM Limited reports $248.4 million in revenue, an 11.2% increase over last year’s comparative results of $223.5 million.

Operations expenses increased by $25.1 million or 13.4% over the same period last year.

The company says a portion of both the increased revenues and operations expenses is a result of the launch and continued growth of the four newest specialty channels: MusiMax, Space: The Imagination Station, Cable Pulse 24 and MuchMoreMusic.

Also said to be contributing to the increased operations expenses was the continued development of the ‘NewNet’, the Company’s new Ontario television system comprised of CKVR Barrie, CFPL London, CHWI Windsor, CKNX Wingham and CHRO Ottawa.

Net earnings for the nine months were $10.7 million or $0.92 per share, compared with $18.7 million or $1.56 for the comparable period last year. The $1.56 per share earnings recorded for the nine months ended May 31, 1998 included the gain on the sale of the company’s investment in ctv, which amounted to $0.42 per share (net of income taxes).

In April, chum acquired a 23% equity interest in Funny Films oy, a Finnish production company which produces programs for MTV3. chum anticipates this investment will provide the company with a European base for additional production opportunities.

*Rogers’ revenues surge

Rogers Communications announced an increase in revenue of $38.7 million in financial results for the second quarter ending June 30, 1999. The company’s consolidated revenue was $754.5 million over three months, up 5.4% from $715.8 million in the same period last year.

Rogers attributes the growth to better than expected results from its Cablesystems division, which surged 9.8%. Revenue was $279.1 million at Cablesystems, up $24.9 million from 1998. The cableco also saw positive performances from its Wireless and Media divisions. Wireless revenue rose 6.2% to $325.1 million and Media revenues saw a 7.5% increase to $150.3 million.