Astral Media starts Fiscal 2009 with a solid first quarter



    
                             24% revenue growth
           13% increase in net earnings from continuing operations
                         10% increase in EPS (basic)
                          21% increase in EBITDA(1)
    

    MONTREAL, Jan. 14 /CNW Telbec/ - Astral Media Inc. (TSX: ACM.A/ACM.B)
today reported its financial results for the first quarter ended November 30,
2008, which saw continued growth in revenues, net earnings, EPS, EBITDA(1) and
cash flow from continuing operating activities. These results include the
operations of the assets acquired from Standard Radio, effective October 29,
2007.
    Consolidated revenues totalled $244.5 million for the first quarter, an
increase of 24% over the $197.7 million recorded last year for the same
period. Consolidated net earnings from continuing operations for the first
three months of Fiscal 2009 increased by 13% over last year, rising to $42.4
million ($0.76 per share) from $37.5 million ($0.69 per share) last year.
EBITDA(1) for the first three months increased 21% to $79.5 million from $65.5
million for the same quarter last year.
    "Given the current environment, we are obviously very pleased with the
strength and the resilience of the Company's operating results for the first
quarter of Fiscal 2009," said Ian Greenberg, President and Chief Executive
Officer. "We continue to remain disciplined and prudent, with a strong focus
on execution, three key elements to help weather the current storm and ensure
that our media properties remain must-buys in all of their respective
markets."

    OPERATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS

    
    Television

    - Revenue growth of 3%;
    - Advertising revenues up 3% and pay subscriber-related revenues
      increasing by 3%;
    - Launch of a new French-language specialty service, TELETOON Rétro, on
      September 4, 2008;
    - Repositioning and rebranding of the specialty service MusiquePlus on
      September 22, 2008;
    - Launch of HBO Canada on October 30, 2008.

    Radio

    - Revenue growth of 87%(2);
    - EBITDA(1) growth of 81%(2);
    - Deployment, in January 2009, of the Virgin Radio brand in three more
      markets.

    Outdoor Advertising

    - Revenue growth of 6%, as a result of the constant growth in the Toronto
      Street Furniture Program since September 1st, 2007 and a good
      performance in the Québec market;
    - EBITDA(1) growth of 7%.

    Corporate

    - Renewal of the normal course issuer bid to repurchase up to 5% of
      outstanding Class A Shares and Class B Shares announced on December 9,
      2008.
    

    The unaudited interim consolidated financial statements and related notes
and Management's Discussion and Analysis are available on the Company's
website: astralmedia.com.
    There will be a conference call with analysts and media at 11:00 a.m. on
Wednesday, January 14, 2009. To access the conference call dial
1-800-732-0232. The conference call will also be broadcast live and archived
for a three-month period on the Astral Media website at astralmedia.com.

    Astral Media is a leading Canadian media company, active in specialty and
pay television, radio, outdoor advertising and interactive media. Astral
Media's solid and dynamic presence in the country's major markets rests on its
commitment to offer a unique combination of high-quality, targeted media for
all its audiences.

    This press release contains certain forward-looking statements concerning
the future performance of the Company. These forward-looking statements are
based on current expectations. We caution that all forward-looking information
is inherently uncertain and actual results may differ materially from the
assumptions, estimates or expectations reflected or contained in the
forward-looking information, and that actual future performance will be
affected by a number of factors, including technological change, economic
conditions, regulatory change, competitive factors and changes in accounting
rules or standards, many of which are beyond the Company's control. We
disclaim any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking
statements.

    
    ----------------------------
    1. EBITDA is defined as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and
       amortization. See Appendix 1.
    2. Includes the additional two months of Standard Radio assets operations
       for the first quarter of Fiscal 2009.



    ASTRAL MEDIA INC.
    Interim Consolidated Statements of Earnings
    for the three months ended
    (in thousands of Canadian dollars except for per-share data)
    (unaudited)
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              November 30
                                                 ----------------------------
                                                          2008          2007
                                                 ----------------------------
    Revenues                                      $    244,483  $    197,704
    Operating expenses                                 165,018       132,253
                                                 ----------------------------
    EBITDA(1)                                           79,465        65,451

      Depreciation                                       6,141         4,601
      Amortization of intangible assets                    414           186
      Interest expense, net                             10,518         3,479
                                                 ----------------------------
    Earnings from continuing operations before
     income taxes                                       62,392        57,185

    Income tax provision                                20,030        19,679
                                                 ----------------------------
    Net earnings from continuing operations             42,362        37,506
    Net earnings from discontinued operations                -            30
                                                 ----------------------------
    Net earnings                                  $     42,362  $     37,536
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Earnings per share from continuing operations
      - Basic                                     $       0.76  $       0.69
                                                 ----------------------------
      - Diluted                                   $       0.75  $       0.68

    Earnings per share
      - Basic                                     $       0.76  $       0.69
                                                 ----------------------------
      - Diluted                                   $       0.75  $       0.68
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Weighted average number of shares
     outstanding - basic                                56,010        54,302
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    ---------------------------
    (1) See Appendix 1


    ASTRAL MEDIA INC.
    Interim Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows for the three months ended
    (in thousands of Canadian dollars)
    (unaudited)

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                              November 30
                                                 ----------------------------
                                                          2008          2007
                                                 ----------------------------
    Cash and cash equivalents provided by
     (used for):

    OPERATING ACTIVITIES

      Net earnings from continuing operations     $     42,362  $     37,506

      Non-cash charges (credits):
        Depreciation and amortization                    6,555         4,787
        Stock-based compensation                         1,711         1,390
        Future income tax expense                        3,273         2,469
        Imputed interest on other
         non-current liabilities                           659           276
        Amortization of deferred financing costs           172            55
                                                 ----------------------------

      Cash flow from continuing operations(1)           54,732        46,483

      Net change in non-cash operating items           (15,289)      (26,935)
                                                 ----------------------------
      Cash flow from continuing operating
        activities                                      39,443        19,548
                                                 ----------------------------
    DISCONTINUED OPERATIONS                               (945)         (111)
                                                 ----------------------------

    INVESTING ACTIVITIES

      Short-term investments - cashed                    9,962        51,128
      Additions to property, plant and equipment       (10,896)       (5,057)
      Business pre-operating costs                      (4,024)         (304)
      Business acquisition, net of cash acquired        (2,787)     (906,043)
                                                 ----------------------------
                                                        (7,745)     (860,276)
                                                 ----------------------------
    FINANCING ACTIVITIES

      Deferred financing costs                               -        (2,673)
      Increase in long-term debt                             -       825,000
      Repayment of long-term debt                      (10,000)            -
      Shares repurchased                                     -          (248)
      Stock options exercised                               80           718
                                                 ----------------------------
                                                        (9,920)      822,797
                                                 ----------------------------
    Net change in cash and cash equivalents             20,833       (18,042)
    Cash and cash equivalents (bank
     overdraft) - beginning of period                   (3,644)       21,237
                                                 ----------------------------
    Cash and cash equivalents - end of period     $     17,189  $      3,195
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    (1) See Appendix 1


    ASTRAL MEDIA INC.
    Interim Consolidated Balance Sheets as at
    (in thousands of Canadian dollars)

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   November 30,    August 31,
                                                          2008          2008
                                                 ----------------------------
                                                    (unaudited)
    ASSETS

    Current
      Cash and cash equivalents                   $     17,189  $          -
      Short-term investments                                 -         9,962
      Accounts receivable                              179,386       155,841
      Income taxes receivable                                -           919
      Program and film rights                           86,972        79,305
      Prepaid expenses and other current assets         27,855        28,954
                                                 ----------------------------
                                                       311,402       274,981

    Program and film rights                             67,218        69,502
    Other non-current assets                            53,189        47,751
    Property, plant and equipment                      135,979       133,484
    Broadcast licences                               1,807,496     1,807,496
    Goodwill                                           356,945       356,945
    Future income tax assets                            29,229        26,448
                                                 ----------------------------
                                                  $  2,761,458  $  2,716,607
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    LIABILITIES

    Current
      Bank overdraft                              $          -  $      3,644
      Accounts payable and accrued liabilities         123,999       129,906
      Income taxes payable                                 325             -
      Program and film rights payable                   78,036        64,060
      Future income tax liabilities                      3,390         5,951
                                                 ----------------------------
                                                       205,750       203,561
                                                 ----------------------------
    Long-term debt                                     802,246       812,074
                                                 ----------------------------
    Future income tax liabilities                      260,224       254,912
                                                 ----------------------------
    Other non-current liabilities                       79,116        78,445
                                                 ----------------------------
    Derivative financial instruments                    30,185        18,374
                                                 ----------------------------
    Liabilities of discontinued operations               1,803         2,748
                                                 ----------------------------

    SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY

    Capital stock                                      751,449       748,121
                                                 ----------------------------
    Contributed surplus                                 12,872        14,409
                                                 ----------------------------
    Retained earnings                                  639,546       597,188
    Accumulated other comprehensive income             (21,733)      (13,225)
                                                 ----------------------------
                                                       617,813       583,963
                                                 ----------------------------
                                                     1,382,134     1,346,493
                                                 ----------------------------
                                                  $  2,761,458  $  2,716,607
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------


    ASTRAL MEDIA INC.
    Business Segments
    for the three months ended November 30,
    (in thousands of Canadian dollars)
    (unaudited)

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                          2008          2007
                                                 ----------------------------
    REVENUES

    Television                                    $    133,439  $    129,499
    Radio                                               89,858        48,152
    Outdoor Advertising                                 21,186        20,053
                                                 ----------------------------

                                                  $    244,483  $    197,704
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    EBITDA(1)

    Television                                    $     47,689  $     47,458
    Radio                                               30,885        17,058
    Outdoor Advertising                                  7,816         7,331
    Corporate                                           (6,925)       (6,396)
                                                 ----------------------------

                                                  $     79,465  $     65,451
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    ----------------------
    (1) See Appendix 1


    ASTRAL MEDIA INC.
    Appendix 1
    Supplementary Measures
    for the three months ended
    (unaudited)

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addition to discussing earnings measures in accordance with Canadian
generally accepted accounting principles ("GAAP"), this Press Release provides
the following supplementary measures which are also factors used by management
in monitoring and evaluating the performance of the Company and its business
segments:

    EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) is
provided to assist investors in determining the ability of the Company to
generate cash flow from operating activities and to cover financial charges.
It is also an indicator widely used for business valuation purposes. EBITDA
margin is defined as the ratio obtained by dividing EBITDA by revenues.

    The following table reconciles GAAP measures disclosed in the unaudited
interim consolidated statements of earnings for the periods ended November 30,
2008 and 2007 to EBITDA:

                                                              November 30
                                                 ----------------------------
    (in thousands of $)                                   2008          2007
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Earnings from continuing operations before
     income taxes                                       62,392        57,185
    Depreciation and amortization                        6,555         4,787
    Interest expense, net                               10,518         3,479
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    EBITDA                                              79,465        65,451
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Cash flow from continuing operations is defined as cash flow from
continuing operating activities before the net change in non-cash operating
items. This measure provides an indication of the Company's ability to
generate cash flows without considering certain timing and other factors
causing variations in non-cash items.
    The following table reconciles GAAP measures disclosed in the unaudited
interim consolidated statements of cash flows for the periods ended November
30, 2008 and 2007 to cash flow from continuing operations:

                                                              November 30
                                                 ----------------------------
    (in thousands of $)                                   2008          2007
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Cash flow from continuing operating
     activities                                         39,443        19,548
    Net change in non-cash operating items              15,289        26,935
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Cash flow from continuing operations                54,732        46,483
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The above supplementary measures do not have a standardized meaning
prescribed by GAAP and may not be comparable to similar measures presented by
other companies.
    




For further information:

For further information: Medias: Alain Bergeron, Vice-President, Brand
Management and Corporate Communications, Astral Media Inc., (514) 939-5000;
Financial Analysts: Robert Fortier, Vice-President, Finance, Astral Media
Inc., (514) 939-5000

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