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Astral Media's 'single largest quarter'

Astral Media Inc. delivered its "single largest quarter" of growth as the specialty TV, radio and outdoor advertising company awaits regulatory approval of a friendly takeover by BCE Inc.

Astral said Thursday that its first-quarter profit increased to $59.6 million or $1.05 per diluted share, with revenue growth from all three divisions despite an uncertain advertising market.

"The 65th consecutive quarter of profitable growth represents the single largest quarter in the company's history," chief executive Ian Greenberg told analysts during a conference call.

"I am pleased by the strong results announced this morning as well as by our properties' ability to deliver growth in spite of a still uncertain advertising market," Greenberg said.

The deal by BCE (TSX:BCE) to buy Astral Media, which would provide more content for TV, smartphones, computers and tablets, was rejected last fall by the CRTC. The regulator ruled the transaction wasn't in the best interests of Canadians.

But a revised proposal has been submitted to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Greenberg said he expects the CRTC to make details of the new application public in the coming weeks and to hold another round of public hearings in the spring.

"This new proposal addresses the issues raised by the CRTC in the Oct. 18 decision," he said. "Until the new application becomes public, we will not discuss the proposal's details."

Bell and Astral have said the deadline for the new deal, which must be approved by the CRTC, is June 1 and can be further extended until July 31.

First-quarter revenue for Astral (TSX:ACM.A) rose to $274.5 million. But it was about $3 million below analyst estimates calling for $277.2 million of revenue for the three months ended Nov. 30.

But profit beat analyst estimates by four cents per share, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters.

The Canadian Press

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