Astral Media profit up on growth in TV business

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(Reuters) – Astral Media Inc’s second-quarter profit rose 10 percent, helped by steady but uninspiring growth in television revenue.

Astral, in the process of being acquired by Canada’s largest telecom company BCE Inc for C$3 billion, said it made a consolidated net profit of C$38.2 million ($38.10 million), or 69 Canadian cents per share, compared with C$34.7 million, or 60 Canadian cents per share, a year ago.

Consolidated revenue was nearly flat at C$233.5 million.

Its radio stations, some of which will likely need to be divested as part of the BCE buyout, have struggled recently and posted a 3 percent decline in revenue compared with a year ago.

A tough advertising climate has also hurt its television operations, but the segment posted a 4 percent advertising revenue growth, while sales for its much smaller outdoor advertising arm grew 8 percent.

Montreal-based Astral’s television portfolio includes the Movie Network and HBO Canada as well as French-language Super Écran and Canal Vie among more than 20 specialty cable networks and pay-television channels.

BCE is seeking to buy Astral, its largest content provider, to lock up more of the programming carried over its media platforms and expand its presence in French-speaking Quebec.

The purchase could receive closer scrutiny from regulators given BCE’s growing heft as a broadcaster since buying CTV, Canada’s largest private broadcaster.

BCE expects to close the Astral deal six months after Astral shareholders approve it.

Astral’s Class A shares closed at C$48.47 on Tuesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

($1 = 1.0027 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Bhaswati Mukhopadhyay in Bangalore and Alastair Sharp in Toronto- Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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