Que­becor wants to re­cruit part­ners in bid to get Nordiques

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - BUSINESS -

Que­becor Inc. says it’s re­cruit­ing part­ners for its bid to bring the Nordiques back to Que­bec City.

The media and tele­com com­pany said Thurs­day it has opened talks with some spon­sors and signed con­tracts but has yet to se­cure another in­vestor will­ing to help foot the US$500 bill it costs to launch an NHL ex­pan­sion fran­chise.

“Sub­mit­ting this ap­pli­ca­tion is one more step to­wards our ul­ti­mate ob­jec­tive of mak­ing sports an ad­di­tional growth seg­ment,” pres­i­dent and CEO Pierre Dion told an­a­lysts on a con­fer­ence call af­ter the com­pany posted its latest fi­nan­cial re­sults.

“We will soon be ap­proach­ing po­ten­tial part­ners, which we be­lieve will at­tract high in­ter­est lev­els.”

The Mon­treal-based com­pany has been putting more money and re­sources into grow­ing its sports busi­ness. Last week it an­nounced it sub­mit­ted a bid to the Na­tional Hockey League that would bring a team back to Que­bec City for the first time in 20 years.

Hockey has be­come a ma­jor fo­cus for the com­pany, which al­ready owns the na­tional French­language broad­cast rights to NHL games for 12 years and launched spe­cialty chan­nel TVA Sports to carry most of those games.

Que­becor (TSX:QBR.B) is also the man­ager of the Videotron Cen­tre in Que­bec City.

The big­ger in­vest­ment in sports has cost Que­becor.

On Thurs­day, the com­pany re­ported it earned $72.1 mil­lion in the sec­ond quar­ter, or 59 cents per share, com­pared with a year ear­lier when it booked a loss of $54.8 mil­lion or 45 cents per share on dis­con­tin­ued oper­a­tions.

How­ever, Que­becor’s sports and en­ter­tain­ment di­vi­sion posted an op­er­at­ing loss of $4.1 mil­lion as the com­pany made what Dion called “ma­jor in­vest­ments re­quired for the pur­suit of our busi­ness plan,” which in­cluded the launch of TVA Sports and man­age­ment of the Videotron arena.

Ad­justed profit from con­tin­u­ing oper­a­tions in­creased to $66.5 mil­lion or 54 cents per share for the quar­ter, from $55.9 mil­lion or 45 cents per share a year ago.

Growth was driven by its wire­less di­vi­sion as Videotron added 40,800 wire­less sub­scribers in the pe­riod, bring­ing its to­tal to 700,000 cus­tomers.

Av­er­age wire­less rev­enue per user in­creased more than 13 per cent to $47.03.

Chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Jean-Fran­cois Pruneau said Que­becor would want to main­tain a ma­jor­ity stake in an NHL team.

“The rea­son for that is re­ally re­lated to how this con­tent, how this as­set would con­trib­ute with all the other prop­er­ties that we own, and es­pe­cially TVA Sports,” he said.

“In terms of prof­itabil­ity and cash over the fu­ture, we’re cur­rently work­ing on up­dat­ing our fi­nan­cial pro­jec­tions be­cause we now know more than what we knew in the past.”

A sce­nario where Que­becor would have to pay the $500 mil­lion bill alone doesn’t seem to be in the com­pany’s plans.

“I can’t com­ment on be­ing alone be­cause the ini­tial dis­cus­sions that we had with some part­ners in­di­cate that there would be in­ter­est lev­els,” Pruneau said.

Que­becor has been get­ting out of some long­time busi­nesses and re­fo­cus­ing ef­forts on new growth ar­eas.

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