Recently, I took a look at companies that would be impacted by a partial or full season lockout of the National Hockey League. Canadian media giant Rogers Communications (RCI) appeared on that list due to their new ownership stake in the Toronto Maple Leafs. The NHL has already cancelled games into November, but that hasn't stopped Rogers from posting strong revenue gains in other areas of operation.
Rogers reported third quarter earnings Wednesday morning. The company saw revenue of $3.18 billion, beating analysts' target of $3.17 billion. Net income came in at $466 million, representing earnings per share of $0.90. Analysts were expecting earnings per share of $0.88. The strong revenue results came from increases in smartphone subscribers, along with wireless data revenue growth.
In the third quarter, Rogers activated 707,000 smartphones. This was the second highest amount of subscriber additions in the smartphone category for the company. Of the activated phones, 36% were for subscribers who were new to Rogers' wireless service. Smartphone subscribers now make up 65% of Roger's customers, versus last year's 52%. Rogers remains one of the key phone companies in Canada as it consistently offers the best and latest smartphones. Currently, Rogers has the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III, which remain in high demand.
Rogers also expanded its LTE 4G coverage during the third quarter. Rogers brought Canada's first wireless LTE network to 24 markets. The coverage now reaches an amazing 54% of Canada's population. This coverage allows Rogers to actively target customers from rival firms as it has a huge advantage to other companies.
Earlier in 2012, Rogers completed its acquisition of a partial ownership stake in MLSE, Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment. The new 37.5% ownership stake was acquired from the Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan. Rival telecommunications company Bell Canada (BCE) also has an ownership stake in MLSE. The acquisition gives Rogers an ownership stake in the Toronto Maple Leafs, the NHL's most valuable franchise. The Maple Leafs were worth an estimated $521 million in 2011, according to Forbes magazine. MLSE also owns NBA franchise Toronto Raptors, AHL franchise Toronto Marlies, and Toronto FC of Major League Soccer.
All of these new sports franchises gives Rogers Communications leverage in its strong media division. Rogers owns Sportsnet, a television channel that airs NHL games for several Canadian teams, including: Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and the Vancouver Canucks. Rogers also completed its acquisition of Score Media, the third largest sports channel in Canada. Sports assets are very powerful for media companies. People around the world want to see their favorite sports teams on television, and the companies that own these teams get to control who broadcasts them. By owning several teams and being able to show games exclusively on Sportsnet, Rogers gets additional cable subscribers.
Shares of Rogers Communications hit a new 52-week high today and stand at $42.46 at the time of writing. With shares up 2.7% on the day, they have now passed earlier year highs of $42.26. Shares also trade at prices not seen since 2008 for Rogers Communications. Earlier today, UBS upgraded shares of Rogers to Buy.
Analysts see Rogers posting earnings per share off $3.14 on the fiscal year. The following year, analysts see the company reporting $3.32 in earnings per share. With shares at $42.46, that gives the company a price to earnings ratio of 13.5 and 12.7 on a current and forward basis respectively. Shareholders are also paid a 3.9% dividend yield to hold this amazing Canadian telecommunications, media, and sports ownership company. The NHL lockout will have an impact on the company's Media segment. It appears Rogers has found other ways to make up for the shortcomings. The NHL season is not totally lost, and an announcement of a return could send shares to further new heights.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.