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Quebecor considering launching wireless service outside home province

MONTREAL - Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B) will soon decide whether it will expand its wireless service outside of its home province of Quebec, but chief executive Pierre Dion wants to first meet with the federal government.

"We expect to meet with the Canadian government soon in order to let them know what we assume to be the right conditions for us to operate a single service wireless business outside of our home territory," Quebecor president and chief executive Pierre Dion said Thursday.

"Its response will dictate our next step."

Dion said the company is analyzing its options, but did not specify what he was looking for to make a decision to expand across the country.

Quebecor owns the province's most-read tabloid newspaper and its most-watched TV network. It also operates a 24-hour news TV channel and Videotron, Canada's third-largest cable services provider and a wireless provider in Quebec.

Quebecor bought a swath of wireless spectrum in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, in addition to Quebec, in the federal government's spectrum auction earlier this year.

The move raised hopes it would become a fourth national player to compete with Rogers (TSX:RCI.B), Telus (TSX:T) and Bell (TSX:BCE), but the Quebec company has been cagey about whether it will take up the challenge.

"I'm confident that our team will manage the process rigorously and that should the plan make sense, we will get the right attention," said Dion, adding that he expects to make a decision in a "few months."

Quebecor said Thursday it earned a profit attributable to shareholders of $40.7 million, or 33 cents per basic share, in the first quarter, compared to $35.6 million and 29 cents per share in the same period last year.

The Montreal-based media company says adjusted income from continuing operations was $49.3 million, or 40 cents per share — up from $36 million or 29 cents a share in the same period of 2013.

Revenue during the quarter was $1.04 billion, a gain of $11.4 million or just over one per cent.

Quebecor's telecommunications segment grew its revenues by $31.8 million and its adjusted operating income by $21.9 million in the quarter. Videotron Ltd. saw first quarter revenue increases for all of its major services.

Internet access revenue was 6.9 per cent higher at $13.6 million, the mobile phone segment grew 23.4 per cent to $11.7 million and cable television revenue grew marginally to $800,000.

During the quarter, Pierre Karl Peladeau resigned from the Quebecor board following his decision to enter provincial politics. He was elected as a Parti Quebecois party member in April. Sylvie Lalande was appointed board chairman of TVA Group and Françoise Bertrand named the board chairman at Quebecor.

The Canadian Press

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