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Shaw reports slower subscriber growth in Q1 after intense holiday competition

Shruti Shekar
Telecom & Tech Reporter
REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Significant discounts and subsidies from competitors contributed to slower wireless subscriber growth in Shaw Communications (SJR) (SJR-B.TO) first quarter of 2020.

Shaw reported $162 million in net income, or 31 cents per share, down from the $186 million or 36 cents per share it reported the same period a year ago.

The company added over 66,000 new monthly paid subscribers in its wireless division, a drop from the more than 86,000 it added in the same period a year ago. 

“Over the course from Black Friday to last week, I think the incumbents have been erratic,” Paul McAleese, president of wireless at Shaw, said during the company’s Q1 2020 conference call.

“We have seen a significant break from convention with the incumbents in the last number of months... we saw much larger handset subsidies, massively discounted second lines, [and] expensive gift offerings.”

In June 2019, Rogers was the first national carrier to offer unlimited data plans, followed by Bell and Telus. The carriers also offered device financing, allowing customers to take advantage of cheaper mobile plans and pay back their phones at more affordable rates. 

The offers were announced a few months after Shaw’s Freedom Mobile launched “Big Gig” data plans, its version of unlimited data plans, which saw an industry shift in cellphone prices. 

McAleese said that the company was still pleased with the results and said Shaw plans to continue to focus its efforts on customer satisfaction in 2020.

He was also confident that Shaw’s Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) will continue to grow in fiscal 2020.

Shaw’s ARPU for the quarter, which assesses the company’s operating performance, was reported at $38.76, a 37-cent increase year-over-year. 

Shaw reported a postpaid churn rate, the rate at which a customer leaves a company for a competitor, of 1.5 per cent, an increase of 0.22 percentage points year-over-year. 

McAleese attributed the churn to the intense competition in the past couple of months. 

“There were some, I guess, very desperate win-back programs with some really discounted offers over the holiday period... it has been competitively intense and has been for the last two months [more than] I have ever seen it be,” he said. 

On Average Billing Per Unit (ABPU), or the average price a subscriber is charged, in Q1 Shaw reported $43.60, compared to $41.73 in the first quarter of last year.

Shaw said the growth was attributable to “the increased number of customers that are subscribing to higher value service plans and purchasing a device through Freedom Mobile.”