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Quebecor resuming transition of home broadband customers to new Helix platform

MONTREAL — Quebecor Inc. is cautiously resuming deployment of its new Helix home entertainment platform, following a pause attributable to the recent pandemic crisis, executives said Thursday.

"We have focused our installation activities on connecting new customers and prioritizing repairs to (legacy video and internet) platform," said Jean-Francois Pruneau, president and chief executive of Quebecor's Videotron telecommunications arm.

"We recently resumed migration to Helix and we continue to see sustained interest for (it), especially considering its improved home entertainment experience, better WiFi coverage and a high self-install ratio."

Over the quarter, Videotron added 9,000 broadband customers, he said, but has decided against introducing price increases this year due to competition from internet resellers.

Earlier, Quebecor Inc. reported a $131.6-million profit for the first quarter and a 2.7 per cent increase in revenue compared with the same time last year.

The telecommunications and media company, which also owns the TVA television network, said Thursday its wireless and internet services successfully absorbed a substantial increase in traffic since the crisis began. 

Chief executive Pierre Karl Peladeau said Quebecor helped its customers stay connected during the pandemic by removing data caps on internet services and opening access to a news channel.

Referring to Quebecor's previously reported interest in buying the Cirque de Soleil entertainment business, Peladeau said he wouldn't negotiate in public but hopes a deal can be reached.

"Quebecor has the operating track record and financial wherewithal to structure an accretive transaction that would ensure the survival and long-term success of this great company," Peladeau said on a conference call with analysts.

Quebecor's net income attributable to shareholders amounted to 52 cents per share for the quarter, down from $189.0 million or 74 cents from last year, which included a $97.2-million gain from selling a business unit.

Adjusted income from continuing operations was $111.5 million or 44 cents per share, about the same as the same time last year.

Revenue was $1.06 billion, up from nearly $1.03 billion. The telecommunications segment contributed $34 million of the increase.

Analysts had estimated 43 cents per share of adjusted earnings, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv. 

The company said Thursday approximately 10 per cent of its workforce is now receiving benefits under its supplemental assistance program, which tops up the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy or Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

It has also set up a $500,000 fund for its sports and entertainment employees, contributors and freelancers.

— by David Paddon in Toronto

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:QBR.B)

The Canadian Press