EX-99.2 3 992-annual_a18.htm ANNUAL AUDITED CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS OF BCE INC. FOR THE YEAR ENDED 2018 Annual Report

Exhibit 99.2

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


Management’s discussion and analysis


In this management’s discussion and analysis (MD&A), we, us, our, BCE and the company mean, as the context may require, either BCE Inc. or, collectively, BCE Inc., Bell Canada, their subsidiaries, joint arrangements and associates. Bell means, as the context may require, either Bell Canada or, collectively, Bell Canada, its subsidiaries, joint arrangements and associates. MTS means, as the context may require, until March 17, 2017, either Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. or, collectively, Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. and its subsidiaries; and Bell MTS means, from March 17, 2017, the combined operations of MTS and Bell Canada in Manitoba.

All amounts in this MD&A are in millions of Canadian dollars, except where noted. Please refer to section 10.2, Non-GAAP financial measures and key performance indicators (KPIs) on pages 109 to 112 for a list of defined non-GAAP financial measures and key performance indicators.

Please refer to BCE’s audited consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2018 when reading this MD&A.

Effective January 1, 2018, we applied International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) 15, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, as described in section 10.1, Our accounting policies, retrospectively to each period in 2017 previously reported. We have also reclassified some amounts from previous periods to make them consistent with the presentation for the current period.

In preparing this MD&A, we have taken into account information available to us up to March 7, 2019, the date of this MD&A, unless otherwise stated.

You will find additional information relating to BCE, including BCE’s audited consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2018, BCE’s annual information form for the year ended December 31, 2018, dated March 7, 2019 (BCE 2018 AIF) and recent financial reports, on BCE’s website at BCE.ca, on SEDAR at sedar.com and on EDGAR at sec.gov.

This MD&A comments on our business operations, performance, financial position and other matters for the two years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017.

CAUTION REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

BCE’s 2018 annual report, including this MD&A and, in particular, but without limitation, section 1.4, Capital markets strategy, section 2, Strategic imperatives, section 3.2, Business outlook and assumptions, section 5, Business segment analysis and section 6.7, Liquidity of this MD&A, contains forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements include, without limitation, statements relating to our projected financial performance for 2019, BCE’s dividend growth objective, common share dividend payout policy and 2019 annualized common share dividend, BCE’s financial policy targets and our intended progress towards meeting those targets, the sources of liquidity we expect to use to meet our anticipated 2019 cash requirements, our expected 2019 post-employment benefit plans funding, our network deployment and capital investment plans, BCE’s business outlook, objectives, plans and strategic priorities, and other statements that do not refer to historical facts. A statement we make is forward-looking when it uses what we know and expect today to make a statement about the future. Forward-looking statements are typically identified by the words assumption, goal, guidance, objective, outlook, project, strategy, target and other similar expressions or future or conditional verbs such as aim, anticipate, believe, could, expect, intend, may, plan, seek, should, strive and will. All such forward-looking statements are made pursuant to the safe harbour provisions of applicable Canadian securities laws and of the United States (U.S.) Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

Unless otherwise indicated by us, forward-looking statements in BCE’s 2018 annual report, including in this MD&A, describe our expectations as at March 7, 2019 and, accordingly, are subject to change after that date. Except as may be required by applicable securities laws, we do not undertake any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

Forward-looking statements, by their very nature, are subject to inherent risks and uncertainties and are based on several assumptions, both general and specific, which give rise to the possibility that actual results or events could differ materially from our expectations expressed in, or implied by, such forward-looking statements and that our business outlook, objectives, plans and strategic priorities may not be achieved. These statements are not guarantees of future performance or events, and we caution you against relying on any of these forward-looking statements.

Forward-looking statements are presented in BCE’s 2018 annual report, including in this MD&A, for the purpose of assisting investors and others in understanding our objectives, strategic priorities and business outlook as well as our anticipated operating environment. Readers are cautioned, however, that such information may not be appropriate for other purposes.

We have made certain economic, market and operational assumptions in preparing the forward-looking statements contained in BCE’s 2018 annual report and, in particular, but without limitation, the forward-looking statements contained in the previously mentioned sections of this MD&A. These assumptions include, without limitation, the assumptions described in the various sections of this MD&A entitled Business outlook and assumptions, which sections are incorporated by reference in this cautionary statement. We believe that our assumptions were reasonable at March 7, 2019. If our assumptions turn out to be inaccurate, our actual results could be materially different from what we expect.

Important risk factors including, without limitation, competitive, regulatory, security, technological, operational, economic, financial and other risks that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, the previously-mentioned forward-looking statements and other forward-looking statements contained in BCE’s 2018 annual report, and in particular in this MD&A, include, but are not limited to, the risks described or referred to in section 9, Business risks, which section is incorporated by reference in this cautionary statement.

We caution readers that the risks described in the previously mentioned section and in other sections of this MD&A are not the only ones that could affect us. Additional risks and uncertainties not currently known to us or that we currently deem to be immaterial may also have a material adverse effect on our financial position, financial performance, cash flows, business or reputation. Except as otherwise indicated by us, forward-looking statements do not reflect the potential impact of any special items or of any dispositions, monetizations, mergers, acquisitions, other business combinations or other transactions that may be announced or that may occur after March 7, 2019. The financial impact of these transactions and special items can be complex and depends on facts particular to each of them. We therefore cannot describe the expected impact in a meaningful way, or in the same way we present known risks affecting our business.

 

28

       
 

1

MD&A Overview

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


1 Overview

Effective January 1, 2018, we applied IFRS 15, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, as described in section 10.1, Our accounting policies, retrospectively to each period in 2017 previously reported. We have also reclassified some amounts from previous periods to make them consistent with the presentation for the current period.

1.1 Introduction

AT A GLANCE

BCE is Canada’s largest communications company, providing residential, business and wholesale customers with a wide range of solutions for all their communications needs. BCE’s shares are publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange and on the New York Stock Exchange (TSX, NYSE: BCE).

Our results are reported in three segments: Bell Wireless, Bell Wireline and Bell Media.

Bell Wireless provides wireless voice and data communications products and services to our residential, small and medium-sized business and large enterprise customers across Canada.

Bell Wireline provides data, including Internet access and Internet protocol television (IPTV), local telephone, long distance, as well as other communications services and products to our residential, small and medium-sized business and large enterprise customers, primarily in Ontario, Québec, the Atlantic provinces and Manitoba, while satellite television (TV) service and connectivity to business customers are available nationally across Canada. In addition, this segment includes our wholesale business, which buys and sells local telephone, long distance, data and other services from or to resellers and other carriers.

Bell Media provides conventional TV, specialty TV, pay TV, streaming services, digital media services, radio broadcasting services and out-of-home (OOH) advertising services to customers nationally across Canada.

We also hold investments in a number of other assets, including:

  • a 28% indirect equity interest in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. (MLSE)
  • a 50% indirect equity interest in Glentel Inc. (Glentel)
  • an 18.4% indirect equity interest in entities that operate the Montreal Canadiens Hockey Club, evenko and the Bell Centre in Montréal, Québec, as well as Place Bell in Laval, Québec


 

 29


       

1

MD&A Overview  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


BCE CONSOLIDATED RESULTS
 


BCE CUSTOMER CONNECTIONS
 


OUR GOAL

Our goal is to be recognized by customers as Canada’s leading communications company. Our primary business objectives are to grow our subscribers profitably and to maximize revenues, operating profit, free cash flow and return on invested capital by further enhancing our position as the foremost provider in Canada of comprehensive communications services to residential, business and wholesale customers and as Canada’s premier content creation company. We seek to take advantage of opportunities to leverage our networks, infrastructure, sales channels, and brand and marketing resources across our various lines of business to create value for both our customers and other stakeholders. Our strategy is centred on our disciplined focus and execution of six strategic imperatives. The six strategic imperatives that underlie BCE’s business plan are:

(1) Adjusted EBITDA, adjusted net earnings and free cash flow are non-GAAP financial measures and do not have any standardized meaning under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Therefore, they are unlikely to be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers. See section 10.2, Non-GAAP financial measures and key performance indicators (KPIs) – Adjusted EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA margin, Adjusted net earnings and adjusted EPS and Free cash flow and dividend payout ratio in this MD&A for more details, including reconciliations to the most comparable IFRS financial measure.
(2) At the beginning of Q1 2018, we adjusted our postpaid wireless subscriber base to remove 16,116 subscribers with a corresponding increase to our high-speed Internet subscribers to reflect the transfer of fixed wireless Internet subscribers.
(3) At the beginning of Q4 2018, we adjusted our postpaid wireless subscriber base to remove 20,000 subscribers that we divested to Xplornet Communications Inc. (Xplornet) as a result of BCE’s acquisition of MTS.
(4) At the beginning of Q1 2018, our high-speed Internet subscriber base was increased by 19,835, our IPTV by 14,599 and our residential NAS by 23,441, mainly as a result of a small acquisition made in Q1 2018.
(5) As of January 1, 2018, business NAS was removed from our NAS subscriber base due to its declining relevance as a KPI given migrations from voice to Internet protocol (IP) result in NAS losses without a corresponding decline in revenues. Previously reported periods were retroactively adjusted.


 

30

       
 

1

MD&A Overview

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


1.2 About BCE

We report the results of our operations in three segments: Bell Wireless, Bell Wireline and Bell Media. We describe our product lines by segment below, to provide further insight into our operations.


OUR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Bell Wireless

SEGMENT DESCRIPTION

  • Provides integrated digital wireless voice and data communications products and services to residential and business customers across Canada
  • Includes the results of operations of Bell Mobility Inc. (Bell Mobility) and wireless-related product sales from our wholly-owned subsidiary, national consumer electronics retailer, The Source (Bell) Electronics Inc. (The Source)

OUR NETWORKS AND REACH

We hold wireless spectrum licences, with holdings across various spectrum bands and regions across Canada, totalling more than 4.8 billion megahertz population (MHz-Pop), corresponding to an average of approximately 137 MHz of spectrum per Canadian.

The vast majority of our cell towers are connected with fibre, the latest network infrastructure technology, for a more reliable connection.

Our Fourth Generation (4G) Long-term Evolution (LTE) and LTE Advanced (LTE-A) nationwide wireless broadband networks are compatible with global standards and deliver high-quality and reliable voice and high-speed data services to virtually all of the Canadian population.

  • LTE coverage of 99% of the Canadian population coast to coast, with LTE-A covering approximately 91% of the Canadian population at December 31, 2018
  • Expansion of our LTE and LTE-A services is supported by continued repurposing of wireless spectrum to increase capacity and coverage
  • In-building coverage improvements deliver a stronger LTE signal
  • LTE-A provides peak theoretical mobile data access download speeds that exceed 1 (1) Gigabit per second (Gbps) (expected average speeds of 25 to 220 Megabits per second (Mbps)), while LTE offers speeds up to 150 Mbps (typical speeds of 18 to 40 Mbps) (2)
  • Reverts to the High-speed packet access plus (HSPA+) network outside LTE coverage areas, with speeds up to 42 Mbps (typical speeds of 7 to 14 Mbps)
  • International voice and data roaming capabilities in more than 230 outbound destinations, including LTE roaming in 178 outbound destinations.

We manage 17,000 wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) access points at enterprise customer locations.

We have more than 2,360 retail points of distribution across Canada, including approximately 1,360 Bell-branded stores and The Source locations, Glentel-operated stores (WIRELESSWAVE, Tbooth wireless and WIRELESS etc.) as well as other third-party dealer and retail locations.

OUR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

  • Voice and data plans: available on either postpaid or prepaid options, providing fast Internet access for video, social networking, messaging and mobile applications, as well as a host of call features
  • Specialized plans: for tablets, mobile Internet, smartwatches and Connected Car
  • Extensive selection of devices: leading 4G LTE and LTE-A smartphones and tablets, mobile Internet hubs and sticks, mobile Wi-Fi devices and connected things (smartwatches, Bell Connected Car, trackers, smart home, lifestyle products and virtual reality)
  • Mobile content: over 40 live and on-demand channels on smartphones and tablets
  • Travel: roaming services with other wireless service providers in more than 230  outbound destinations worldwide with LTE roaming in 178 outbound destinations, Roam Better feature and Travel Passes
  • Mobile business solutions: push-to-talk, field service management, worker safety and mobility management
  • Internet of Things (IoT) solutions: asset management, smart buildings, smart cities, fleet management and other IoT services
(1) Peak theoretical download speeds that exceed 1 Gbps are currently offered in Kingston and Toronto, with more to come.
(2) Network speeds vary with location, signal and customer device. Compatible device required.


 

 31


       

1

MD&A Overview  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


Bell Wireline

SEGMENT DESCRIPTION

  • Provides data, including Internet access and IPTV, voice, comprising local telephone and long distance, as well as other communications services and products to residential, small and medium-sized business and large enterprise customers, primarily in Ontario, Québec, the Atlantic provinces and Manitoba, while satellite TV service and connectivity to business customers are available nationally across Canada. We also offer competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) services in Alberta and British Columbia.
  • Includes the results of our wholesale business, which buys and sells local telephone, long distance, data and other services from or to resellers and other carriers, and the wireline operations of Northwestel Inc. (Northwestel), which provides telecommunications services in Canada’s Northern Territories
  • Includes wireline-related product sales from The Source

OUR NETWORKS AND REACH

  • Extensive local access network in Ontario, Québec, the Atlantic provinces and Manitoba, as well as in Canada’s Northern Territories
  • Broadband fibre network, consisting of fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) and fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) locations, covering 9.5 million homes and  businesses in Ontario, Québec, the Atlantic provinces and Manitoba. Our FTTP direct fibre footprint encompassed approximately 4.6 million homes and commercial locations at the end of 2018, representing the largest FTTP footprint in Canada.
  • Largest IP multi-protocol label switching footprint of any Canadian provider, enabling us to offer business customers a virtual private network (VPN) service for IP traffic and to optimize bandwidth for real-time voice and TV
  • Largest data centre footprint in Canada with 28 locations in eight provinces, enabling us to offer data centre co-location and hosted services to business customers across Canada
  • Approximately 1,360 Bell-branded stores and The Source locations across Canada

OUR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

RESIDENTIAL

  • TV: IPTV services (Fibe TV and Alt TV) and satellite TV service. Bell Fibe TV provides extensive content options with Full high-definition (HD) and 4K Resolution (4K) Whole Home personal video recorder (PVR), 4K Ultra HD programming, on-demand content and innovative features including wireless receivers, the Fibe TV app, Restart and access to Crave, Netflix and YouTube. Alt TV app-based live TV streaming service offers up to 500 live and on-demand channels on laptops, smartphones, tablets, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and other devices with no traditional TV set-top box (STB) required.
  • Internet: high-speed Internet access through fibre optic broadband technology or digital subscriber line (DSL) with a wide range of options, including Whole Home Wi-Fi, unlimited usage, security services and mobile Internet. Our Internet service, marketed as Fibe Internet, offers download speeds up to 1.5 Gbps with FTTP or 100 Mbps with FTTN. We also offer Internet service under the Virgin Mobile brand offering download speeds up to 100 Mbps.
  • Home Phone: local telephone service, long distance and advanced calling features
  • Smart Home: home security, monitoring and automation services from Bell Smart Home in Ontario, Québec and Atlantic Canada and from AAA Security, a Bell MTS company, in Manitoba
  • Bundles: multi-product bundles of TV, Internet and home phone services with monthly discounts

BUSINESS

  • Internet and private networks: business Internet, Ethernet, IP VPN, Wavelength, global network solutions, virtual network services, managed Wi-Fi
  • Communications: IP telephony, local and long distance, audio, video and web conferencing and webcasting, contact centre solutions
  • Cloud and data centre: cloud computing, cloud services, backup and disaster recovery, co-location hosting, virtual data centre
  • Other: security, managed services, professional services

 

32

       
 

1

MD&A Overview

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


Bell Media

SEGMENT DESCRIPTION

  • Canada’s leading content creation company with premier assets in video, radio, OOH advertising and digital media
  • Revenues are derived primarily from advertising and subscriber fees
    • Conventional TV, radio, OOH and digital media revenues are derived from advertising
    • Specialty TV revenue is generated from subscription fees and advertising
    • Pay TV revenue is derived from subscription fees

OUR ASSETS AND REACH

VIDEO

  • 30 conventional TV stations, including CTV, Canada’s #1 TV network for 17 consecutive years
  • 33 specialty and Pay TV channels, including TSN, Canada’s most-watched specialty TV channel and RDS, the top French-language sports network
  • Three direct-to-consumer streaming services, including Crave, the exclusive home of HBO in Canada

RADIO

  • 109 licensed radio stations in 58 markets across Canada

OOH ADVERTISING

  • Network of more than 31,000 advertising faces in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Québec and Nova Scotia

DIGITAL MEDIA

  • More than 200 websites and more than 30 apps

BROADCAST RIGHTS

  • Sports: long-term media rights to key sports properties and official Canadian broadcaster of the Super Bowl, Grey Cup and International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship. Live sports coverage also includes the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators, Canadian Football League (CFL), National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Soccer (MLS), Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup events, Curling’s Season of Champions, Major League Baseball (MLB), Golf’s Majors, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Formula One, Grand Slam Tennis, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) March Madness and more.
  • HBO: long-term agreement to deliver all current-season, past-season and library HBO programming in Canada exclusively on our linear, on-demand and over-the-top (OTT) platforms
  • SHOWTIME: long-term content licensing and trademark agreement for past, present and future SHOWTIME-owned programming
  • STARZ: long-term agreement with Lionsgate bringing U.S. premium pay TV service STARZ to Canada
  • iHeartRadio: exclusive partnership for digital and streaming music services in Canada

OTHER ASSETS

  • Majority stake in Pinewood Toronto Studios, the largest purpose-built production studio in Canada
  • Partnership in Just for Laughs, the live comedy event and TV producer
  • Equity interest in Dome Productions Partnership, one of North America’s leading providers of sports and other event production and broadcast facilities

OUR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

  • Varied and extensive array of TV programming to broadcast distributors across Canada
  • Advertising on our TV, radio, OOH, and digital media properties to both local and national advertisers across a wide range of industry sectors
  • Crave subscription on-demand TV streaming service offering a large collection of premium content in one place, including HBO, SHOWTIME and STARZ programming, on STBs, mobile devices, Apple TV, other streaming devices and online. Crave is offered through a number of Canadian TV providers and is available directly to all Canadian Internet subscribers as an OTT service.
  • TSN Direct and RDS Direct streaming services offering live and on-demand TSN and RDS content directly to consumers through a monthly subscription on computers, tablets, mobile devices, Apple TV and other streaming devices
  • Mobile TV service with live and on-demand access to content from our conventional TV networks, CTV and CTV Two, BNN Bloomberg, TSN, RDS and other brands in news, sports and entertainment, is offered on commercial terms to all Canadian wireless providers

 33


       

1

MD&A Overview  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


Other BCE investments

BCE also holds investments in a number of other assets, including:

  • a 28% indirect equity interest in MLSE, a sports and entertainment company that owns several sports teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC and the Toronto Argonauts, as well as real estate and entertainment assets in Toronto
  • a 50% indirect equity interest in Glentel, a Canadian-based dual-carrier, multi-brand mobile products distributor
  • an 18.4% indirect equity interest in entities that operate the Montreal Canadiens Hockey Club, evenko (a promoter and producer of cultural and sports events) and the Bell Centre in Montréal as well as Place Bell in Laval, Québec


OUR PEOPLE

EMPLOYEES

At the end of 2018, our team comprised 52,790 employees, an increase of 1,111 employees compared to the end of 2017, due primarily to call centre hiring and acquisitions, partly offset by natural attrition, retirements and workforce reductions.

Approximately 44% of total BCE employees were represented by labour unions at December 31, 2018.

 

BELL CODE OF BUSINESS CONDUCT

The ethical business conduct of our people is core to the integrity with which we operate our business. The Bell Code of Business Conduct sets out specific expectations and accountabilities, providing employees with practical guidelines to conduct business in an ethical manner.

Our commitment to the Code of Business Conduct is renewed by employees each year in an ongoing effort to ensure that all employees are aware of, and adhere to, Bell’s standards of conduct.

1.3 Key corporate developments

MIRKO BIBIC APPOINTED AS CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER

On October 4, 2018, BCE appointed Mirko Bibic as Chief Operating Officer (COO) for BCE and Bell Canada. As COO, Mr. Bibic is leveraging his deep knowledge of Bell’s business and his experience in executing major corporate initiatives to lead the company’s largest customer-facing business units. Mr. Bibic also continues to lead legal and regulatory strategy for the BCE group of companies. Mr. Bibic has been a key driver in the success of Bell’s broadband investment and innovation strategy as Executive Vice President of Corporate Development. This includes his oversight of strategic mergers and acquisitions transactions such as the acquisitions of Astral Media Inc. and MTS, Bell’s participation in multiple wireless spectrum auctions, and a wide range of other investment and partnership initiatives.


ACQUISITION OF AXIA NETMEDIA

On August 31, 2018, BCE completed its acquisition of Axia NetMedia Corporation (Axia), the Calgary-based operator of SuperNet, the Alberta broadband network connecting thousands of provincial and municipal offices, Indigenous communities, schools, libraries, healthcare institutions, businesses and Internet service providers throughout the province. In addition to the multi-year contract to supply all SuperNet services, which was awarded to Bell on July 3, 2018, Bell now owns and operates Axia network assets connecting a total of 402 rural Alberta communities, along with the 27 urban areas already connected to SuperNet by Bell. The acquisition also creates new opportunities to provide advanced solutions in security, data centres and unified communications to Alberta-based and national enterprise customers and Internet service providers in the province.



 

34

       
 

1

MD&A Overview

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


BELL LET’S TALK DAY PASSES 1 BILLION TOTAL MESSAGES, $100 MILLION IN BELL MENTAL HEALTH FUNDING

Bell Let’s Talk Day on January 30, 2019, set new records with 145,442,699 text messages, mobile calls and long distance calls by our customers and social media messages of support for mental health, taking total interactions since the first Bell Let’s Talk Day in 2011 to 1,013,915,275. Canadians everywhere, including leaders like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and people worldwide, including influencers like Anderson Cooper and Ellen DeGeneres, helped spread the mental health message across social media. With a donation of 5 cents for each interaction, Bell’s funding commitment grew by $7,272,134.95 to a total of $100,695,763.75 since 2010 for anti-stigma and mental health care, research and workplace initiatives throughout Canada.


RECOGNITION OF BELL’S ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERSHIP

Bell was named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers by Canada’s Top 100 Employers program for the second consecutive year in 2018. The award recognizes Bell’s focus on minimizing our environmental impact, our leadership in implementing an ISO 14001 certified Environmental Management System and the success of our ongoing initiatives to reduce waste and save energy. The following are some highlights from 2017:

  • At Bell offices across Canada, we reduced electricity consumption by over 30,000 Megawatt hours (MWh), enough to power 3,000 homes for a year
  • We reduced fuel consumption by more than 500,000 litres by using telematics systems in 85% of Bell vehicles and following eco-driving practices such as limiting idling
  • We diverted 64% of our waste, including 100 tonnes of computer equipment, from landfills through reuse and recycling programs
  • We recovered 200,536 phones through the Bell Blue Box program, which donates proceeds to mental health organizations across Canada as part of Bell Let’s Talk

BELL NAMED ONE OF CANADA’S BEST DIVERSITY EMPLOYERS

For the second year in a row, Bell was named one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers in Mediacorp’s 2018 report on workplace diversity and inclusion. The award recognizes Bell’s commitment to providing an inclusive and accessible workplace that reflects Canada’s diversity and highlights our wide range of initiatives to support women, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal people, visible minorities and other groups.

1.4 Capital markets strategy

We seek to deliver sustainable shareholder returns through consistent dividend growth. This objective is underpinned by continued growth in free cash flow and a strong balance sheet, supporting a healthy level of ongoing capital investment on advanced broadband networks and services that are essential to driving the long-term growth of our business.


DIVIDEND GROWTH AND PAYOUT POLICY

On February 7, 2019, we announced a 5%, or 15 cents, increase in the annualized dividend payable on BCE’s common shares for 2019 to $3.17 per share from $3.02 per share in 2018, starting with the quarterly dividend payable on April 15, 2019. This represents BCE’s 15th increase to its annual common share dividend since the fourth quarter of 2008, representing a total increase of 117%. This is BCE’s 11th consecutive year of 5% or better dividend growth.

Our objective is to seek to achieve dividend growth while maintaining our dividend payout ratio (1) within the target policy range of 65% to 75% of free cash flow and balancing our strategic business priorities. BCE’s dividend payout policy, increases in the common share dividend and the declaration of dividends are subject to the discretion of the BCE board of directors (BCE Board or Board) and, consequently, there can be no guarantee that BCE’s dividend policy will be maintained, that the dividend on common shares will be increased or that dividends will be declared.

We have a strong alignment of interest between shareholders and our management’s equity-based long-term incentive compensation plan. The vesting of performance share units depends on the realization of our dividend growth policy, while stock options reflect our objective to increase the share price for our shareholders.

(1) Dividend payout ratio is a non-GAAP financial measure and does not have any standardized meaning under IFRS. Therefore, it is unlikely to be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers. See section 10.2, Non-GAAP financial measures and key performance indicators (KPIs) – Free cash flow and dividend payout ratio for more details.




 35


       

1

MD&A Overview  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report




  • Stringent share ownership requirements
  • Emphasis on pay-at-risk for executive compensation
  • Double trigger change-in-control policy
  • Anti-hedging policy on share ownership and incentive compensation
  • Clawbacks for the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and all Executive Vice-Presidents as well as all options holders
  • Caps on BCE supplemental executive retirement plans (SERPs) and annual bonus payouts, in addition to mid-term and long-term incentive grants
  • Vesting criteria fully aligned to shareholder interests

 


USE OF LIQUIDITY

Our dividend payout policy allows BCE to retain a high level of free cash flow after payment of dividends on common shares. Consistent with our capital markets objective to deliver sustainable shareholder returns through dividend growth, while maintaining appropriate levels of capital investment, investment-grade credit ratings and considerable overall financial flexibility, we deploy amounts of remaining free cash flow, after payment of dividends on common shares, in a balanced manner and on uses that include, but are not limited to:

  • Financing of strategic acquisitions and investments (including wireless spectrum purchases) that support the growth of our business
  • Debt reduction
  • Voluntary contributions to BCE’s defined benefit (DB) pension plans to improve the funded position of the plans and reduce the use of letters of credit for funding deficits
  • Share buybacks through normal course issuer bid (NCIB) programs

In 2018, free cash flow, after payment of dividends on common shares, in the amount of $888 million, down from $906 million in 2017, was directed towards a $240 million voluntary pension plan contribution to better align the funded status of a number of BCE’s subsidiary DB plans with Bell Canada’s; the funding of various acquisitions, including AlarmForce Industries Inc. (AlarmForce) and Axia; and a $175 million repurchase of common shares through a NCIB program.


TOTAL SHAREHOLDER RETURN PERFORMANCE

This graph compares the yearly change in the cumulative annual total shareholder return of BCE common shares against the cumulative annual total return of the S&P/TSX Composite Index (3), for the five-year period ending December 31, 2018, assuming an initial investment of $100  on December 31, 2013 and the quarterly reinvestment of all dividends.

(1) The change in BCE’s common share price for a specified period plus BCE common share dividends reinvested, divided by BCE’s common share price at the beginning of the period.
(2) Based on BCE’s common share price on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and assumes the reinvestment of dividends.
(3) As the headline index for the Canadian equity market, the S&P/TSX Composite Index is the primary gauge against which to measure total shareholder return for Canadian-based, TSX-listed companies.


36

       
 

1

MD&A Overview

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


STRONG CAPITAL STRUCTURE

BCE’s balance sheet is underpinned by a healthy liquidity position and an investment-grade credit profile, providing the company with a solid financial foundation and a high level of overall financial flexibility. BCE is well-positioned with an attractive long-term debt maturity profile and no requirements to repay publicly issued debt securities until the second quarter of 2020. We continue to monitor the capital markets for opportunities where we can further reduce our cost of debt and optimize our cost of capital. We seek to proactively manage financial risk in terms of currency exposure of our U.S. dollar-denominated purchases, as well as equity risk exposure under BCE’s long-term equity-based incentive plans and interest rate and foreign currency exposure under our various debt instruments. We also seek to maintain investment-grade credit ratings with stable outlooks.

We monitor capital by utilizing a number of measures, including net debt leverage ratio (1), adjusted EBITDA to net interest expense ratio (1), and dividend payout ratio.

     
ATTRACTIVE LONG-TERM PUBLIC DEBT MATURITY PROFILE (2)
  • Average term of Bell Canada’s publicly issued debt securities: approximately 11 years
  • Average after-tax cost of publicly issued debt securities: 3.1%
  • No publicly issued debt securities maturing until Q2 2020
STRONG LIQUIDITY POSITION (2)
  • $844 million available under our $4.0 billion multi-year committed credit facilities
  • $500 million accounts receivable securitization available capacity
  • $425 million cash and cash equivalents on hand
INVESTMENT GRADE CREDIT PROFILE (2) (3)
  • Long-term debt credit rating of BBB (high) by DBRS Limited (DBRS), Baa 1 by Moody’s Investors Service, Inc. (Moody’s) and BBB+ by Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services (Canada) (S&P), all with stable outlooks

As a result of financing a number of strategic acquisitions made since 2010, including CTV Inc., Astral Media Inc., MLSE, Bell Aliant Inc. (Bell Aliant), Q9 Networks (Q9) and MTS; voluntary pension plan funding contributions to reduce our pension solvency deficit; wireless spectrum purchases; as well as the incremental debt that was assumed as a result of the privatization of Bell Aliant and the acquisition of MTS, our net debt leverage ratio has increased above the limit of our internal target range. At December 31, 2018, we had exceeded the limit of our internal net debt leverage ratio target range of 1.75 to 2.25 times adjusted EBITDA by 0.47. Additionally, our net debt leverage ratio in 2019 will reflect a one-time unfavourable impact due to the adoption of IFRS 16, Leases, reflecting the addition of $2.1 billion to $2.3 billion of capital leases to net debt (1) on our balance sheet on January 1, 2019. As a result, we increased our net debt leverage ratio target range from 1.75 to 2.25 times adjusted EBITDA to 2.0 to 2.5 times adjusted EBITDA. The new target range remains aligned with our investment-grade credit rating profile and is consistent with the target net debt leverage ratios of our direct Canadian telecom peers. Neither the change in the net debt leverage ratio target range nor the higher net debt leverage resulting from the implementation of IFRS 16 accounting standards is expected to affect our credit ratings or outlooks. Our net debt leverage ratio is expected to improve over time and return within the net debt leverage ratio target range through growth in free cash flow and applying a portion of free cash flow, after payment of dividends on common shares, to the reduction of BCE’s indebtedness.

BCE’s adjusted EBITDA to net interest expense ratio remains significantly above our internal target range of greater than 7.5 times adjusted EBITDA, providing good predictability in our debt service costs and protection from interest rate volatility for the foreseeable future. This ratio was unaffected by the adoption of IFRS 16.

BCE CREDIT RATIOS INTERNAL TARGET   DECEMBER 31, 2018  

Net debt leverage ratio

2.0–2.5   2.72  

Adjusted EBITDA to net interest expense ratio

>7.5   9.00  

Bell Canada successfully accessed the capital markets in March 2018, August 2018 and September 2018, raising a total of $1.5 billion in gross proceeds from the issuance of seven-year and 10-year medium-term note (MTN) debentures, and US $1.15 billion (C$1.493 billion) in gross proceeds from the issuance of 30-year notes. The U.S.-dollar financing represented the first public debt issuance by Bell Canada in the U.S. market in more than 20 years. Both the Canadian-dollar and U.S.-dollar issuances contributed to lowering our after-tax cost of outstanding publicly issued debt securities to 3.1% (4.3% on a pre-tax basis), and increased the average term to maturity to approximately 11 years. The net proceeds of the  2018 offerings were used to fund the early redemption of $2.1  billion of Bell Canada and MTS debt securities maturing in 2018 and 2019, to repay short-term debt and for general corporate purposes.

On March 20, 2018, Bell Canada renewed its short form base shelf prospectus, enabling Bell Canada to offer up to $4 billion of debt securities from time to time until April 20, 2020. The debt securities will be fully and unconditionally guaranteed by BCE. Consistent with past practice, the short form base shelf prospectus was renewed to continue to provide Bell Canada with financial flexibility and efficient access to the Canadian and U.S. capital markets. As at December 31, 2018, Bell Canada had issued approximately $2.5 billion principal amount of debt securities calculated on a Canadian-dollar basis under its new short form base shelf prospectus.

(1) Net debt, net debt leverage ratio and adjusted EBITDA to net interest expense ratio are non-GAAP financial measures and do not have any standardized meaning under IFRS. Therefore, they are unlikely to be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers. See section 10.2, Non-GAAP financial measures and key performance indicators (KPIs) – Net debt, Net debt leverage ratio and Adjusted EBITDA to net interest expense ratio in this MD&A for more details.
(2) As at December 31, 2018
(3) These credit ratings are not recommendations to buy, sell or hold any of the securities referred to, and they may be revised or withdrawn at any time by the assigning rating organization. Each credit rating should be evaluated independently of any other credit rating.




 37


       

1

MD&A Overview  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


1.5 Corporate governance and risk management

CORPORATE GOVERNANCE PHILOSOPHY

The BCE Board and management believe that strong corporate governance practices contribute to superior results in creating and maintaining shareholder value. That is why we continually seek to strengthen our leadership in corporate governance and ethical business conduct by adopting best practices, and providing full transparency and accountability to our shareholders.

Key governance strengths and actions in support of our governance philosophy include:

  • Separation of the Board Chair and CEO roles
  • Director independence standards
  • Audit Committee, Management Resources and Compensation Committee (Compensation Committee) and Corporate Governance Committee (Governance Committee) of the Board composed of independent directors
  • Annual director effectiveness and performance assessments
  • Ongoing reporting to Board committees regarding ethics programs and the oversight of corporate policies across BCE
  • Share ownership guidelines for directors and executives

For more information, please refer to BCE’s most recent notice of annual general shareholder meeting and management proxy circular (the Proxy Circular) filed with the Canadian provincial securities regulatory authorities (available at sedar.com) and furnished to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (available at sec.gov), and available on BCE’s website at BCE.ca.


RISK GOVERNANCE FRAMEWORK

BOARD OVERSIGHT

BCE’s full Board is entrusted with the responsibility for identifying and overseeing the principal risks to which our business is exposed and seeking to ensure there are processes in place to effectively identify, monitor and manage them. These processes seek to mitigate rather than eliminate risk. A risk is the possibility that an event might happen in the future that could have a negative effect on our financial position, financial performance, cash flows, business or reputation. While the Board has overall responsibility for risk, the responsibility for certain elements of the risk oversight program is delegated to Board committees in order to ensure that they are treated with appropriate expertise, attention diligence, with reporting to the Board in the ordinary course.

Risk information is reviewed by the Board or the relevant committee throughout the year, and business leaders present regular updates on the execution of business strategies, risks and mitigation activities.

  • The Audit Committee is responsible for overseeing financial reporting and disclosure as well as overseeing that appropriate risk management processes are in place across the organization. As part of its risk management activities, the Audit Committee reviews the organization’s risk reports and ensures that responsibility for each principal risk is formally assigned to a specific committee or the full Board, as appropriate. The Audit Committee also regularly considers risks relating to financial reporting, legal proceedings, the performance of critical infrastructure, information and physical security, journalistic independence, privacy and records management, business continuity and the environment.
  • The Compensation Committee oversees risks relating to compensation, succession planning, and health and safety practices
  • The Governance Committee assists the Board in developing and implementing BCE’s corporate governance guidelines and determining the composition of the Board and its committees. The Governance Committee also oversees matters such as the organization’s policies concerning business conduct, ethics and public disclosure of material information.
  • The Pension Fund Committee (Pension Committee) has oversight responsibility for risks associated with the company’s pension funds.



38

       
 

1

MD&A Overview

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


RISK MANAGEMENT CULTURE

There is a strong culture of risk management at BCE that is actively promoted by the Board and the company’s President and CEO at all levels within the organization. It has become a part of how the company operates on a day-to-day basis and is woven into its structure and operating principles, guiding the implementation of the organization’s strategic imperatives.

The President and CEO, selected by the Board, has set his strategic focus through the establishment of six strategic imperatives and focuses risk management around the factors that could impact the achievement of those strategic imperatives. While the constant state of change in the economic environment and the industry creates challenges that need to be managed, clarity around strategic objectives, performance expectations, risk management and integrity in execution ensures discipline and balance in all aspects of our business.

RISK MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK

While the Board is responsible for BCE’s risk oversight program, operational business units are central to the proactive identification and management of risk. They are supported by a range of corporate support functions that provide independent expertise to reinforce implementation of risk management approaches in collaboration with the operational business units. The Internal Audit function provides a further element of expertise and assurance, working to provide insight and support to the operational business units and corporate support functions, while also providing the Audit Committee with an independent perspective on the state of risk and control within the organization. Collectively, these elements can be thought of as a “three lines of defence” approach to risk management. Although the risk management framework described in this section 1.5 is aligned with industry best practices and is endorsed by the Institute of Internal Auditors, there can be no assurance that it will be sufficient to prevent the occurrence of events that could have a material adverse effect on our financial position, financial performance, cash flows, business or reputation.

FIRST LINE OF DEFENCE – OPERATIONAL BUSINESS UNITS

The first line refers to management within our operational business segments (Bell Wireless, Bell Wireline and Bell Media), who are expected to understand their operations in great detail and the financial results that underpin them. There are regular reviews of operating performance involving the organization’s executive and senior management. The discipline and precision associated with this process, coupled with the alignment and focus around performance goals, create a high degree of accountability and transparency in support of our risk management practices.

As risks emerge in the business environment, they are discussed in a number of regular forums to share details and explore their relevance across the organization. Executive and senior management are integral to these activities in driving the identification, assessment, mitigation and reporting of risks at all levels. Formal risk reporting occurs through strategic planning sessions, management presentations to the Board and formal enterprise risk reporting, which is shared with the Board and the Audit Committee during the year.

Management is also responsible for maintaining effective internal controls and for executing risk and control procedures on a day-to-day basis. Each operational business unit develops its own operating controls and procedures that fit the needs of its unique environment.

SECOND LINE OF DEFENCE – CORPORATE SUPPORT FUNCTIONS

BCE is a very large enterprise, with 52,790 employees as at December 31, 2018, multiple business units and a diverse portfolio of risks that is constantly evolving based on internal and external factors. In a large organization, it is common to manage certain functions centrally for efficiency, scale and consistency. While the first line of defence is often central to identification and management of business risks, in many instances operational management works collaboratively with, and also relies on, the corporate functions that make up the second line of defence for support in these areas. These corporate functions include Finance, Corporate Security and Corporate Risk Management, as well as Legal and Regulatory, Corporate Responsibility, Human Resources, Real Estate and Procurement.

Finance function: BCE’s Finance function plays a pivotal role in seeking to identify, assess and manage risks through a number of activities, which include financial performance management, external reporting, pension management, capital management, and oversight and execution practices related to the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and equivalent Canadian securities legislation, including the establishment and maintenance of appropriate internal control over financial reporting. BCE has also established and maintains disclosure controls and procedures to seek to ensure that the information it publicly discloses, including its business risks, is accurately recorded, processed, summarized and reported on a timely basis. For more details concerning BCE’s internal control over financial reporting and disclosure controls and procedures, refer to the Proxy Circular and section 10.3, Effectiveness of internal controls of this MD&A.




 39


       

1

MD&A Overview  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


Corporate Security function: This function is responsible for all aspects of security, which requires a deep understanding of the business, the risk environment and the external stakeholder environment. Based on this understanding, Corporate Security sets the standards of performance required across the organization through security policy definitions and monitors the organization’s performance against these policies. In high and emerging risk areas such as information security, Corporate Security leverages its experience and competence and, through collaboration with the operational business units, develops strategies intended to seek to mitigate the organization’s risks. For instance, we have implemented security awareness training and policies and procedures that seek to mitigate information security threats. We further rely on security assessments to identify risks, projects and implementation controls with the objective of ensuring that systems are deployed with the appropriate level of control based on risk and technical capabilities, including access management, vulnerability management, security monitoring and testing, to help identify and respond to attempts to gain unauthorized access to our information systems and networks. We evaluate and seek to adapt our security policies and procedures designed to protect our information and assets in light of the continuously evolving nature and sophistication of information security threats. However, given the complexity and scale of our business, network infrastructure, technology and IT supporting systems, there can be no assurance that the security policies and procedures that we implement will prevent the occurrence of all potential information security breaches. In addition, there can be no assurance that any insurance we may have will cover the costs, damages, liabilities or losses that could result from the occurrence of any information security breach.

Corporate Risk Management function: This function works across the company to gather information and report on the organization’s assessment of its principal risks and the related exposures. Annually, senior management participate in a risk survey that provides an important reference point in the overall risk assessment process.

In addition to the activities described above, the second line of defence is also critical in building and operating the oversight mechanisms that bring focus to relevant areas of risk and reinforce the bridges between the first and second lines of defence, thereby seeking to ensure that there is a clear understanding of emerging risks, their relevance to the organization and the proposed mitigation plans.

To further coordinate efforts between the first and second lines of defence, BCE has established a Health and Safety, Security, Environment and Compliance Oversight Committee. A significant number of BCE’s most senior leaders are members of this committee, the purpose of which is to oversee BCE’s strategic security (including information security), compliance, and environmental, health and safety risks and opportunities. This cross-functional committee seeks to ensure that relevant risks are adequately recognized and mitigation activities are well integrated and aligned across the organization and are supported with sufficient resources.

THIRD LINE OF DEFENCE – INTERNAL AUDIT FUNCTION

Internal Audit is a part of the overall management information and control system and has the responsibility to act as an independent appraisal function. Its purpose is to provide the Audit Committee and management with objective evaluations of the company’s risk and control environment, to support management in fulfilling BCE’s strategic imperatives and to maintain an audit presence throughout BCE and its subsidiaries.



40

       
 

2

MD&A Strategic imperatives

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


2 Strategic imperatives

Our success is built on the BCE team’s dedicated execution of the six strategic imperatives that support our goal to be recognized by customers as Canada’s leading communications company.

2.1 Invest in broadband networks and services

We invest in wireline and wireless broadband platforms to deliver the most advanced wireless, TV, Internet and other IP-based services available, to support continued subscriber and data growth across all our residential product lines as well as the needs of our business market customers.

2018 PROGRESS

  • Expanded our LTE-A wireless network to reach 91% of the Canadian population with data speeds up to 260 Mbps (expected average download speeds of 18 to 74 Mbps). In addition, our Quad-band LTE-A footprint covered more than 24% of the population with speeds up to 750 Mbps (expected average download speeds of 25 to 220 Mbps in select areas).
  • Became the first wireless provider in Canada to achieve Gigabit LTE speeds in testing and deployed these advanced speeds in Toronto and Kingston. To boost LTE-A speeds to the Gigabit level, Bell employed a combination of carrier aggregation, 256 QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) and 4×4 Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) technologies to increase spectrum efficiency and multiply capacity.
  • Continued to expand our FTTP direct fibre footprint, reaching approximately 4.6 million homes and businesses in seven provinces. Approximately 50 percent of our long-term broadband fibre program was completed at the end of 2018. FTTP delivers broadband access speeds of up to 1.5 Gbps currently, with faster speeds expected in the future as equipment evolves to support these higher speeds.
  • Launched an all-fibre broadband network in the city of Toronto, enabling fast Internet speeds, advanced TV and business connectivity to more than 1 million homes and business locations. Bell began the Toronto project in 2015, working closely with the city of Toronto and Toronto Hydro and employing innovative installation techniques and new heavy equipment to roll out the network as efficiently and quickly as possible.
  • Began the buildout of all-fibre connections to an additional 1.3 million homes and businesses throughout the populous and fast-growing Greater Toronto Area (GTA)/905 region surrounding Toronto. Bell commenced projects in a number of communities including the City of Oshawa, the Municipality of Clarington, the City of Orillia and the Chatham-Kent region.
  • Launched wireless-to-the-premise (WTTP) to 28 rural communities in Ontario and Québec following successful trials in the 3.5 Gigahertz (GHz) spectrum band utilizing Fifth Generation (5G)-oriented MIMO and 8T8R technology. WTTP is fixed wireless technology that will take full advantage of 5G to deliver high-speed Internet service to residents in smaller and underserved communities. Bell’s WTTP solution is expected to deliver broadband speeds 5  to 10  times faster than average speeds currently available in these areas. In addition, Bell accelerated its fixed wireless WTTP buildout plan from 800,000 to 1.2 million rural households following the introduction of the federal government’s Accelerated Investment Incentive program.

2019 FOCUS

  • Expand LTE-A network footprint to approximately 94% of the Canadian population
  • Deploy Quad-band LTE-A to approximately 60% of the Canadian population enabling theoretical speeds up to 750 Mbps (expected average speeds of 25 to 220 Mbps)
  • Increase LTE-A peak theoretical speeds to 950 Mbps with 4×4 MIMO technology in select urban areas covering approximately 40% of the Canadian population
  • Continue with preparations for 5G through market trials in various markets, continue to deploy mobile small cells and equip more cell sites with high-speed fibre backhaul
  • Expand combined FTTP direct fibre and fixed wireless WTTP broadband footprint to over 5.3 million homes and commercial locations
    • Increase FTTP footprint by approximately 500,000 homes and businesses to 5.1 million locations, with focus on the Montréal and the GTA/905 geographic areas
    • Accelerate buildout of fixed wireless WTTP network to approximately 200,000 additional households in 138 rural communities




 41


       

2

MD&A Strategic imperatives  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


2.2 Accelerate wireless

Our objective is to grow our Bell Wireless business profitably by focusing on postpaid subscriber acquisition and retention, increasing our share of the prepaid market, maximizing average billing per user (ABPU) by targeting premium smartphone subscribers in all geographic markets we operate in, leveraging our wireless networks, and maintaining device and mobile content leadership to drive greater wireless data penetration and usage.

2018 PROGRESS

  • Acquired 43% of total postpaid and prepaid net activations among the three national wireless carriers
  • Increased the number of postpaid subscribers on our LTE network to 91% of our total postpaid subscribers, up from 88% at the end of 2017
  • Grew prepaid market share with 32,129 net activations, achieving our first year of growth in prepaid net activations since 2009, driven by strong demand for our low-cost Lucky Mobile service
  • Maintained the highest reported blended ABPU in the Canadian wireless industry
  • Expanded our smartphone and tablet lineup with 38 new devices, including Apple’s iPhone XS, XS Max, XR and Apple Watch Series 4, the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, Google’s Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL and the LG G7, adding to our extensive selection of 4G LTE and LTE-A devices
  • First Canadian wireless service provider to enable built-in Wi-Fi hotspots in supported Ford and Lincoln vehicles with Bell’s Connected Car – Built In service. Ideal for mobile workers, commuters and long family trips, Connected Car enables passengers to browse, stream and share on Bell’s broadband LTE wireless network when they are on the road or up to 50 feet from the vehicle when it is parked.
  • Expanded the availability of Lucky Mobile, our low-cost prepaid wireless service, to all 10  provinces with launches in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Québec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Expanded lineup of IoT applications, which enable the interconnection of a range of devices and applications that send and receive data
    • Partnered with the City of Kingston and the City of Orillia to employ Bell’s Smart City platform to provide a series of connected IoT applications to improve municipal operating efficiencies
    • Launched a managed IoT security service that offers businesses, Smart Cities and other organizations employing IoT solutions with an advanced layer of comprehensive security services to detect and respond to evolving cyber threats
    • Partnered with Echologics, an industry leader in leak detection technology, to implement a water management solution for Medicine Hat, Alberta
    • Concluded a multi-year agreement with Superior Propane to deliver a comprehensive fuel tank monitoring solution for its business and residential customers on Bell’s national LTE mobile network

2019 FOCUS

  • Profitably grow our wireless postpaid subscriber base, while maintaining market share momentum of incumbent postpaid subscriber activations
  • Improve blended ABPU
  • Offer the latest handsets and devices in a timely manner to enable customers to benefit from ongoing technological improvements by manufacturers and from faster data speeds to optimize the use of our services
  • Continue to increase the number of postpaid smartphone subscribers using our 4G LTE and LTE-A networks
  • Leverage Lucky Mobile to grow prepaid subscriber market share, while providing Canadians with affordable wireless service options
  • Expand voice and video over LTE (VoLTE) technology coverage areas and broaden rollout to more supported devices
  • Accelerate new revenue streams by continuing to drive the commercialization of IoT services and applications
  • In February 2019, we partnered with the City of Markham for the launch of the Smart City Accelerator Research Program. The program will deploy Bell’s Smart City platform, an advanced solution of interconnected IoT applications, to improve the efficiency of municipal operations and enhance City services for residents.



42

       
 

2

MD&A Strategic imperatives

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


2.3 Leverage wireline momentum

We focus on leveraging our fibre-based TV and Internet services to develop attractive residential offers that drive higher multi-product bundle sales and improve customer satisfaction and retention. These broadband services contribute to the ongoing shift of our operating mix away from legacy wireline voice services.

In our business markets, we remain focused on expanding our broadband network and strengthening our delivery of integrated solutions to Canadian businesses, while continuing to manage the transformation of our business from legacy network services to a fully-integrated data hosting, cloud computing and managed services provider.

2018 PROGRESS

  • Built on our position as the leading Internet service provider (ISP) in Canada with a high-speed Internet subscriber base of 3,933,931, up 3.8% over 2017, including 1.2 million FTTP customers
  • Maintained our position as Canada’s largest TV provider with 2,853,081  subscribers, and increased our total number of IPTV subscribers by 8.1% to 1,675,706
  • Increased Fibe Internet access speeds to 1.5 Gbps, the fastest speed to the home available in Canada. Unlimited Gigabit Fibe 1.5 service was rolled out in Ontario, Québec and the Atlantic provinces. This enhanced Internet service offers total download speeds of up to 1.5 Gbps and uploads of up to 940 Mbps.
  • Took the top spot in PCMag’s “The Fastest ISPs of 2018: Canada”, delivering the highest overall Internet speed index ever recorded in Canada to date by the magazine and scoring more than 30% higher than our nearest competitor. Our operations in the Atlantic provinces marketed under the Bell Aliant brand took second place in the speed tests while Manitoba’s Bell MTS moved into the top 10 for the first time.
  • Launched an exclusive Whole Home Wi-Fi service that combines Wi-Fi access points with the cloud-based networking intelligence of Bell’s Home Hub 3000 and Home Hub 2000 modems to learn how households use the Internet and ensure all devices receive the strongest signal and fastest speeds possible
  • Continued to lead TV innovation in Canada with ongoing enhancements to our IPTV service
    • Launched Download & Go feature, enabling Fibe TV customers in Ontario, Québec and Atlantic Canada to download their PVR recordings with the Fibe TV app to watch on iOS and Android mobile devices even without an Internet connection
    • Expanded access to Alt TV with Amazon Fire TV Stick and a variety of Android TV devices including Sony, NVIDIA, Xiaomi and other Google certified products
    • Concluded a multi-year agreement with Ericsson to leverage its next generation, cloud-based MediaFirst platform to enable an even more personalized and converged multiscreen TV experience for Fibe TV and Alt TV customers
  • Offered access to Amazon Web Services as part of our leading lineup of cloud solutions for Canadian businesses. Bell Cloud Connect provides flexible cloud computing and storage solutions from Bell and partners like Microsoft, IBM, and now Amazon over Bell’s broadband networks, offering better reliability, faster speeds and enhanced security with private end-to-end connections.
  • Launched Virtual Network Services (VNS) platform, offering enterprise business customers a catalogue of on-demand network functions that reside securely in Bell’s private cloud. The first of its kind in Canada, Bell VNS responds to customers’ on-demand needs by transforming and centralizing hardware-based networks in virtualized, software-driven networks.
  • Bell was named a Canadian leader in security services by global IT and telecom advisory firm International Data Corporation (IDC) in its 2018 Canadian Security Services Vendor Assessment Report for the third consecutive year. IDC’s review of Canada’s major security service providers highlighted Bell’s exceptionally broad range of professional services including cloud security, advanced threat detection and proactive mitigation, backed by our highly qualified team and world-class networks.

2019 FOCUS

  • Further grow our residential IPTV and Internet subscriber bases as well as FTTP and WTTP customer penetration
  • Drive higher residential ARPU from the flow-through of price changes and increased penetration of multi-product households
  • Continue to enhance our TV services with more advanced ways to enjoy Fibe TV and Alt TV
    • Make the Fibe TV app available on more devices, including Chromecast
    • Update our satellite receiver lineup to include Whole Home PVR and access to Netflix and YouTube
  • Maintain product superiority through new service offerings and product innovation to provide the best Wi-Fi coverage and better customer experience in the home
    • Extend the availability of the Bell Wi-Fi app to all Bell Internet and TV subscribers
  • Reduce total wireline residential NAS net losses
  • Invest in direct fibre expansion and new solutions in key portfolios such as Internet and private networks, data centre and cloud services, unified communications, security services and IoT to improve the business client experience and increase overall business customer spending on telecommunications products and services
  • Increase share of wallet of large enterprise customers through greater focus on business service solutions and connectivity growth
  • Increase the number of net new customer relationships in both large and mid-sized businesses and reduce small business customer losses




 43


       

2

MD&A Strategic imperatives  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


2.4 Expand media leadership

We strive to deliver leading sports, news, entertainment and business content across all screens and platforms to grow audiences. We are also creating our own world class content, ensuring that Canadian attitudes, opinions, values and artistic creativity are reflected in our programming and in our coverage of events in Canada and around the world, and to introduce new services in support of new revenue streams.

2018 PROGRESS

  • Maintained CTV’s #1 ranking as the most-watched TV network in Canada for the 17th year in a row, and continued to lead with 10 of the top 20 programs nationally in all key demographics
  • TSN was Canada’s most-watched specialty TV channel and RDS remained the top French-language sports network
  • Launched TSN Direct and RDS Direct, making TSN and RDS content available direct to consumers through a monthly subscription. Available for a monthly fee with no contract, TSN Direct and RDS Direct allow digital subscribers to access TSN and RDS’ programming through their computer, tablet, mobile device, Apple TV, Samsung SmartTV and Xbox One.
  • TSN and RDS extended their broadcast partnership with UFC, the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization, including extensive broadcast and digital rights across TSN, RDS and Bell Media platforms
  • Launched the all-new Crave streaming service, combining TMN, HBO Canada, SHOWTIME and other premium content into a single service and making current HBO programming available directly to all Canadians with access to the Internet for the first time ever. Crave grew to 2.3 million subscribers at the end of 2018.
  • Concluded a long-term agreement with Lionsgate to bring premium U.S. pay TV platform STARZ to Canada and distribute the first pay window of Lionsgate’s future theatrical releases in the territory
  • Secured exclusive long-term deals with most major movie studios, including 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight Films, Entertainment One, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures and Focus Features, MGM Studios Inc. and Warner Bros. International Television Distribution, to bring the biggest Hollywood hit movies and film franchises across a variety of platforms including linear, on-demand and digital
  • Launched CTV Movies and CTV Throwback, two new ad-supported video-on-demand (VOD) services featuring thousands of hours of content, marking the first step in the evolution of the CTV Super Hub as Canada’s premiere destination for entertainment on digital platforms
  • Acquired a majority stake in Pinewood Toronto Studios, in partnership with Comweb Studio Holdings Inc., Castlepoint Studio Partners 2 Limited and the City of Toronto, and broke ground on its multi-stage expansion, which will increase total new production space to 200,000 square feet (18,580 square metres) of sound stages and support space. With this expansion, Pinewood Toronto Studios will become the largest purpose-built production studio in Canada and will be better able to support its growing roster of domestic and international film and TV clients.
  • Partnered with Bloomberg Media to create and launch BNN Bloomberg, Canada’s leading multi-platform business news brand. BNN Bloomberg provides audiences and advertisers with a broad suite of products across digital, TV and radio, targeting Canada’s business decision makers.
  • Entered into a long-term agreement with VICE Media (VICE) making Bell Media the exclusive Canadian broadcaster of new original programming from VICE’s U.S. linear network, VICELAND, along with hundreds of hours of library VICE programming
  • Launched Snackable TV, a mobile-first, short-form video app delivering premium and shareable entertainment targeted at viewers looking to consume snack-size pieces of content, featuring exclusive content from HBO, Comedy Central, Etalk and more
  • Bell Media’s OOH advertising division, Astral, entered into new partnerships with Campsite, a Montréal-based leader in programmatic OOH advertising, and Vistar Media, a U.S.-based leader in programmatic technology for digital OOH advertising. These agreements make Astral’s 240 digital large format and street furniture faces across Canada accessible through programmatic platforms.

2019 FOCUS

  • Increase revenue generation from monetization of content rights and Bell Media properties across all platforms as well as from OOH and digital advertising platforms, while controlling TV programming and premium content cost escalation
  • Maintain strong audience levels and ratings across all TV and radio properties
  • Continue scaling Crave on-demand streaming service
  • Reinforce industry leadership in conventional TV, specialty TV, pay TV, streaming and sports services
    • On March  1, 2019, we rebranded Pay TV channel Encore as STARZ, featuring a slate of premium STARZ programming and a broad selection of Lionsgate hit films and TV series, facilitating its transformation into a world-class platform. STARZ also became available directly to all Canadians with access to the Internet as an add-on to Crave.
    • In January 2019, TSN and RDS announced Day Pass subscriptions to their TSN Direct and RDS Direct streaming services. The all-new, single-day subscription option is the first of its kind in Canada, providing full access to TSN and RDS channels for 24 hours with no contract.
  • Successfully renew agreements with broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs)
  • Develop in-house production and content creation for distribution and use across all screens and platforms
  • Expand live and on-demand content through TV Everywhere services
  • Build on our OOH leadership position in Canada
  • Leverage cross-platform and integrated sales and sponsorship
  • Grow revenues through unique partnerships and strategic content investments




44

       
 

2

MD&A Strategic imperatives

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


2.5 Improve customer service

Our objective is to enhance customers’ overall experience by delivering call centre efficiency, meeting commitments for the installation and timely repair of services, increasing network quality, and implementing process improvements to simplify customer transactions and interactions with our front-line employees and self-serve tools. All of these will help differentiate us from our competitors and gain long-term customer loyalty. We intend to achieve this by making the investments we need to improve our front-line service capabilities, our networks, our products and our distribution channels to win and keep customers.

2018 PROGRESS

  • Virgin Mobile Canada (Virgin Mobile) was ranked highest in overall customer care satisfaction in the J.D. Power 2018 Canada Wireless Customer Care Study for the second consecutive year, cited for its strong performance in satisfaction with phone, in-store and online support as well as clarity of information on company websites, user forums and social media
  • Improved wireless postpaid churn by 0.03 pts, driven by our investments in network quality and customer retention
  • MyBell app was selected as the Best Telecommunications Mobile Application of 2018 at the annual MobileWebAwards
  • Updated MyBell app with ability for customers to change their Internet package and manage almost every aspect of their TV service, including changing their channel selection or programming package, ordering Pay Per View and on-demand content, and upgrading their receiver
  • Redesigned MyBell.ca to a mobile-friendly format, making it easier for customers to find what they need and transact online. Mobile transactions increased by 22%.
  • Introduced ability for customers to reboot their modem remotely on Bell.ca, allowing customers to resolve over 40% of Internet connectivity issues
  • Enhanced the Manage Your Appointment web service with new self-serve features that enable customers to reschedule appointments online and provide technicians with handy information such as building entry codes and parking instructions
  • Reduced FTTP installation time by 9%
  • Reduced FTTP Residential Fibe TV repair truck rolls per customer by 6%
  • Offered residential installation appointments 33% earlier

2019 FOCUS

  • Further evolve our self-serve tools
  • Continue to invest in customer service initiatives to simplify complexity for all customers, including billing
  • Further reduce the total volume of customer calls to our call centres as well as the number of truck rolls
  • Further improve customer satisfaction scores
  • Achieve better consistency in customer experience
  • Continue to improve customer personalization
  • Reduce FTTP installation times and improve service quality
  • Deploy new diagnostic technology enabling enhanced troubleshooting and proactive service monitoring for our customers
  • Simplify the technician in-field experience through simplification and innovation of technician tools
  • Improve troubleshooting and diagnostic processes to manage increasing customer and device complexity
2.6 Achieve a competitive cost structure

Cost containment is a core element of our financial performance. It remains a key factor in our objective to preserve steady margins as we continue to experience revenue declines in our legacy wireline voice and data services and further shift our product mix towards growth services. We aim to accomplish this through operating our business in the most cost-effective way possible to extract maximum operational efficiency and productivity gains.

2018 PROGRESS

  • Completed a net reduction in our management workforce of 4%, or approximately 700 positions, that is expected to deliver annualized cash savings of approximately $75 million. These changes reflect the further integration of Bell MTS, Bell Aliant and other acquisitions.
  • Realized productivity improvements and cost efficiencies resulting from the expansion of Bell’s all-fibre network footprint and service innovations enabled by new broadband technologies
  • Maintained relatively stable Bell Wireline and BCE consolidated adjusted EBITDA margins (1)
  • Lowered Bell Canada’s average after-tax cost of publicly issued debt securities to 3.1%

2019 FOCUS

  • Realize operating cost savings from:
    • workforce reductions completed in 2018
    • lower contracted rates from our suppliers
    • reduction in traffic that is not on our wireline network
    • broader deployment of FTTP
    • consumer behaviour changes expected to be driven by product innovation and customer service improvements
    • the realization of further Bell MTS operating synergies
  • Optimize operating cost structure to align with revenue results
(1) Adjusted EBITDA margin is a non-GAAP financial measure and does not have any standardized meaning under IFRS. Therefore, it is unlikely to be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers. See section 10.2, Non-GAAP financial measures and key performance indicators (KPIs) – Adjusted EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA margin in this MD&A for more details.




 45


       

3

MD&A Performance targets, outlook, assumptions and risks  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


3 Performance targets, outlook, assumptions and risks

This section provides information pertaining to our performance against 2018 targets, our consolidated business outlook and operating assumptions for 2019 and our principal business risks.

3.1 BCE 2018 performance vs. guidance targets

 

FINANCIAL
GUIDANCE

2018
TARGET

2018
PERFORMANCE AND RESULTS

ACHIEVED

Revenue growth

2%–4%

3.1%

BCE revenues increased by 3.1% in 2018 compared to last year, driven by growth across all three of our segments and reflected both higher service and product revenues of 1.7% and 13.7%, respectively. This included the contribution from the acquisition of MTS in March 2017.

Adjusted EBITDA growth

2%–4%

2.7%

BCE adjusted EBITDA grew by 2.7% in 2018 compared to last year, driven by growth in our Bell Wireless segment of 5.6% and our Bell Wireline segment of 1.7%, offset in part by a decline in our Bell Media segment of 3.2%. The increase was attributable to the growth in revenues, effective cost containment and the contribution from the acquisition of MTS, offset in part by higher cost of goods sold relating to greater wireless handset sales and higher product sales to enterprise customers, as well as increased content and programming costs at Bell Media.

Capital intensity

Approx. 17%

16.9%

BCE capital investments totaled $3,971 million in 2018, down 1.6% from last year, with a corresponding capital intensity ratio of 16.9%, down from 17.7% in 2017. We continued to focus our strategic investments on the expansion of our FTTP footprint to more homes and businesses, the ongoing deployment of our LTE-A mobile network, spectrum carrier aggregation, the deployment of wireless small-cells to optimize mobile coverage, signal quality and data backhaul, along with the expansion of network capacity to support the growth in subscribers and data consumption and the initial rollout of fixed wireless broadband to rural locations in Ontario and Québec. Our capital expenditures also reflected the acquisition and integration of MTS.

Adjusted net earnings per share (adjusted EPS) (1)

$3.45–$3.55

$3.51

Net earnings attributable to common shareholders in 2018 decreased by $81 million, or $0.10 per common share, compared to 2017, due to higher other expense which included impairment charges of $200 million mainly relating to our Bell Media segment, higher depreciation and amortization expense and higher finance costs. This was partly offset by higher adjusted EBITDA, as growing revenues more than offset an increase in operating costs, lower income taxes and lower severance, acquisition and other costs. Excluding the impact of severance, acquisition and other costs, net mark-to-market (losses) gains on derivatives used to economically hedge equity settled share-based compensation plans, net losses on investments, early debt redemption costs and impairment charges, adjusted net earnings in 2018 was $3,151 million, or $3.51 per common share, compared to $3,058 million, or $3.42 per common share, in 2017.

Free cash flow growth

3%–7%

4.4%

Free cash flow increased $149 million in 2018 due mainly to higher cash flows from operating activities excluding voluntary DB pension plan contributions and acquisition and other costs paid, and lower capital expenditures.

Annualized common dividend per share

$3.02

$3.02

Annualized BCE common dividend per share for  2018 increased by 15  cents, or 5.2%, to $3.02 compared to $2.87 per share in 2017.

Dividend payout ratio

65%–75% of free cash flow

75%

Dividend payout ratio increased from 73% in 2017 to 75% in 2018.

 

3.2 Business outlook and assumptions

OUTLOOK

BCE’s 2019 outlook builds on the solid financial results achieved in 2018 that reflected higher wireless subscriber net additions and operating profitability; improved organic wireline financial performance; broadband Internet and TV market share growth enabled by an expanded direct fibre footprint offering more competitive Internet speeds and product innovation such as Alt TV; as well as the flow-through of operating cost savings realized from workforce reductions and other productivity improvements.

Our projected financial performance for  2019 is underpinned by continued execution of our six strategic imperatives in a highly competitive and dynamic market. Wireless, Internet and TV subscriber base growth, together with pricing discipline and focused cost management, is projected to drive revenue and adjusted EBITDA growth. This is expected to contribute to higher free cash flow, providing a stable foundation for a higher BCE common share dividend for 2019, as well as continued significant capital investment in broadband fibre and wireless network infrastructure to support future growth.

(1) Adjusted EPS is a non-GAAP financial measure and does not have any standardized meaning under IFRS. Therefore, it is unlikely to be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers. See section 10.2, Non-GAAP financial measures and key performance indicators (KPIs) – Adjusted net earnings and adjusted EPS in this MD&A for more details, including a reconciliation to the most comparable IFRS financial measure.




46

       
 

3

MD&A Performance targets, outlook, assumptions and risks

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


The key 2019 operational priorities for BCE are to:

  • Maintain market share of incumbent wireless postpaid net additions
  • Grow wireless prepaid market share
  • Further expand our LTE-A mobile network coverage to approximately 94% of the Canadian population, while continuing with preparations for 5G through market trials in various markets, continuing to deploy mobile small cells and equipping more cell sites with high-speed fibre backhaul
  • Increase our FTTP footprint by approximately 500,000 homes and businesses to 5.1 million locations
  • Accelerate the buildout of our fixed wireless WTTP network to approximately 200,000 additional households in rural communities
  • Further grow our residential IPTV and Internet subscriber bases as well as FTTP and WTTP customer penetration
  • Drive higher wireline residential ARPU from the flow-through of price changes and increased penetration of multi-product households
  • Enhance Internet and TV product superiority through new service offerings and innovation to provide the best Wi-Fi coverage and better customer experience in the home
  • Invest in direct fibre expansion and new solutions in key portfolios such as Internet and private networks, data centre and cloud services, unified communications, security services and IoT to improve the business client experience and increase overall business customer spending on telecommunications products and services
  • Realize operating cost savings from workforce reductions completed in 2018, lower contracted rates from our suppliers, reduction in traffic that is not on our wireline network, broader deployment of FTTP, consumer behaviour changes driven by product innovation, customer service improvements, and the realization of further Bell MTS operating synergies
  • Increase revenue generation from monetization of content rights and Bell Media properties across all platforms as well as from OOH and digital advertising platforms, while controlling TV programming and premium content cost escalation
  • Continue scaling Bell Media’s Crave on-demand streaming service

Our projected financial performance for 2019 enabled us to increase the annualized BCE common share dividend for 2019 by 15 cents, or 5.0%, to $3.17 per share.


ASSUMPTIONS

ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THE CANADIAN ECONOMY

  • A slightly slower rate of economic growth, given the Bank of Canada’s most recent estimated growth in Canadian gross domestic product of 1.7% in 2019, down from 2.0% in 2018
  • Employment gains expected to continue in 2019, as the overall level of business investment is expected to grow but remain variable
  • Interest rates expected to increase modestly in 2019
  • Canadian dollar expected to remain at near current levels. Further movements may be impacted by the degree of strength of the U.S. dollar, interest rates and changes in commodity prices

MARKET ASSUMPTIONS

  • A consistently high level of wireline and wireless competition in consumer, business and wholesale markets
  • Higher, but slowing, wireless industry penetration and smartphone adoption
  • A shrinking data and voice connectivity market as business customers migrate to lower-priced traditional telecommunications solutions or alternative OTT competitors
  • Advertising market expected to be impacted by audience declines and variable demand
  • Continued escalation of media content costs to secure TV programming
  • Ongoing linear TV subscriber erosion, due to growing cord-cutter and cord-never customer segments
3.3 Principal business risks

Provided below is a summary description of certain of our principal business risks that could have a material adverse effect on all of our segments. Certain additional business segment-specific risks are reported in section 5, Business segment analysis. For a detailed description of the principal risks relating to our regulatory environment and a description of the other principal business risks that could have a material adverse effect on our financial position, financial performance, cash flows, business or reputation, refer to section 8, Regulatory environment and section 9, Business risks, respectively.


COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT

As the scope of our businesses increases and evolving technologies drive new services, delivery models and strategic partnerships, our competitive landscape intensifies and expands to include new and emerging competitors, certain of which were historically our partners or suppliers, as well as global-scale competitors including, in particular, OTT TV service providers, IoT hardware and software providers, voice over IP (VoIP) providers and other web-based and OTT players that are penetrating the telecommunications space with significant resources and a large customer base to amortize costs. Certain of these competitors are changing the competitive landscape by moving beyond being mere disruptors and newer entrants to the industry to establishing material positions. Greater customer adoption of data services, including mobile TV, international data roaming, mobile commerce and mobile banking, as well as other IoT applications in the areas of retail (e.g., home automation), business (e.g., remote monitoring), transportation (e.g., connected car and asset tracking) and urban city optimization





 47


       

3

MD&A Performance targets, outlook, assumptions and risks  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


(smart cities), is expected to accelerate growth opportunities as well as competition in these areas. If we are unable to develop and deploy retail, business and government IoT product solutions in advance of or concurrently with our competitors, our business and financial results could be adversely affected.

Pricing and investment decisions of market participants are based on many factors, such as strategy, market position, technology evolution, customer confidence and economic climate, and collectively these factors could adversely affect our market share, service volumes and pricing strategies and, consequently, our financial results.

Technology substitution, IP networks and recent regulatory decisions, in particular, continue to reduce barriers to entry in our industry. In addition, the effects of government policies regarding the set-aside of spectrum at favourable pricing for newer wireless entrants have begun to impact market dynamics. Together, these factors have changed industry economics and allowed competitors to launch new products and services and gain market share with far less investment in financial, marketing, human, technological and network resources than has historically been required. In particular, some competitors deliver their services over our networks, leveraging regulatory obligations applicable to us, therefore limiting the need to invest in building their own networks. Such lower required investment has enabled some competitors to be very disruptive in their pricing. Moreover, foreign OTT players such as Netflix are currently not subject to the same taxation and Canadian content investment obligations as those imposed on Canadian domestic digital suppliers, which provides them with a competitive advantage over us. We expect these trends to continue in the future and the increased competition we face as a result could negatively impact our business including, without limitation, in the following ways:

  • Competitors’ aggressive market offers, combined with heightened customer sensitivity around pricing, could result in pricing pressures, lower margins and increased costs of customer acquisition and retention, and our market share and sales volumes could decrease if we do not match competitors’ pricing levels or increase customer acquisition and retention spending
  • Higher Canadian wireless penetration could slow opportunities for new customer acquisition
  • Product substitutions could result in an acceleration of NAS erosion beyond our current expectations
  • The continued OTT-based substitution and market expansion of lower-cost VoIP and software-defined networking in a wide area network (SD WAN) solutions, which are attracting global competitors including traditional software players, are changing our approach to service offers and pricing and could have an adverse effect on our business
  • Spending rationalization by business customers could lead to higher declines in traditional connectivity value-added services sold and margin erosion, driven by technology substitution, economic factors and customers’ operational efficiencies
  • The pressure from simpler, lower cost, agile service models is driving in-sourcing trends, which could have an adverse impact on our managed services business
  • The fundamental separation of content and connectivity allows the expansion and market penetration of low-cost OTT TV providers and other alternative service providers, some of which may offer content as loss leaders to support their core business, which is changing our TV and media ecosystems and could lower our revenue streams, affecting our business negatively
  • Competition with global competitors such as Netflix and Amazon, in addition to traditional Canadian TV competitors, for programming content could drive significant increases in content acquisition costs as these competitors, along with other global-scale entities such as Google, gain a significant presence in local markets as a result of innovative and flexible global market strategies
  • The proliferation of content piracy could negatively impact subscriber growth and our ability to monetize products and services, while creating bandwidth pressure without corresponding revenue growth in the context of regulated wholesale high-speed Internet access rates
  • Regulatory decisions regarding wholesale access to our wireless and fibre networks could bring new competitors, including OTT players, or strengthen the market position of current competitors, which may negatively impact our retail subscriber base in favour of lower margin wholesale subscribers
  • Adverse economic conditions, such as economic downturns or recessions, adverse conditions in the financial markets or a declining level of retail and commercial activity, could have a negative impact on the demand for, and prices of, our wireline, wireless and media products and services, as well as drive an increase in bad debts as the creditworthiness of some customers declines

For a further discussion of our competitive environment and competition risk, as well as a list of our main competitors, on a segmented basis, refer to Competitive landscape and industry trends and Principal business risks in section 5, Business segment analysis.


REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT

Although most of our retail services are not price-regulated, government agencies and departments such as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), Canadian Heritage and the Competition Bureau continue to play significant roles in regulatory matters such as mandatory access to networks, spectrum auctions, consumer-related codes of conduct, approval of acquisitions, broadcast licensing and foreign ownership requirements. As with all regulated organizations, planned strategies are contingent upon regulatory decisions. Adverse decisions by regulatory agencies or increased regulation could have negative financial, operational, reputational or competitive consequences for our business. For a discussion of our regulatory environment and the principal risks related thereto, refer to section 8, Regulatory environment as well as the applicable segmented risk discussions under Competitive landscape and industry trends and Principal business risks in section 5, Business segment analysis.




48

       
 

3

MD&A Performance targets, outlook, assumptions and risks

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


SECURITY MANAGEMENT

Our operations, service performance, reputation and business continuity depend on how well we protect our physical and non-physical assets, including networks, information technology (IT) systems, offices, corporate stores and sensitive information, from events such as information security attacks, unauthorized access or entry, fire, natural disaster (including, without limitation, seismic and severe weather-related events such as ice, snow and wind storms, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis), power loss, building cooling loss, acts of war or terrorism, sabotage, vandalism, actions of neighbours and other events. The protection and effective organization of our systems, applications and information repositories are central to the secure and continuous operation of our networks and business, as electronic and physical records of proprietary business and personal data, such as confidential customer and employee information, are all sensitive from a market and privacy perspective.

Information security breaches can result from unintentional events or deliberate actions by hackers, organized criminals, state-sponsored organizations or other parties. Information security attacks have grown in complexity, magnitude and frequency in recent years and the potential for damage is increasing. Information security attacks may be perpetrated using a complex array of means including, without limitation, the use of stolen credentials, computer viruses and malicious software, phishing and other attacks on network and information systems. Information security attacks aim to achieve various malicious objectives including unauthorized access to, and theft of, confidential, proprietary or sensitive information, extortion and business disruptions. Information security policies and procedures must continuously adapt and evolve in order to seek to mitigate risk and, consequently, require constant monitoring to ensure effectiveness.

We are also exposed to information security threats as a result of actions that may be taken by our customers, suppliers, outsourcers, business partners, employees or independent third parties, whether malicious or not, including as a result of the use of social media, cloud-based solutions and IT consumerization. Our use of third-party suppliers and outsourcers and reliance on business partners, which may also be subject to information security threats, also exposes us to risks as we have less immediate oversight over their IT domains. Furthermore, the proliferation of data services, including mobile TV, mobile commerce, mobile banking and IoT applications, as well as emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics, have significantly increased the number of access points to our network and systems, resulting in higher complexity that needs to be carefully monitored and managed to minimize security threats. Failure to implement an information security program that efficiently considers relationships and interactions with business partners, suppliers, customers, employees and other third parties across all methods of communication including social media and cloud-based solutions, as well as emerging technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence and machine-to-machine communication, could adversely affect our ability to successfully defend against information security attacks.

If information security threats were to become successful attacks resulting in information security breaches, they could harm our brand, reputation and competitiveness, decrease customer and investor confidence and adversely affect our business, financial results, stock price and long-term shareholder value, given that they could lead to:

  • Network operating failures and business disruptions, which could negatively impact our ability to sell products and services to our customers and adversely affect their ability to maintain normal business operations and deliver critical services, and/or the ability of third-party suppliers to deliver critical services to us
  • Unauthorized access to proprietary or sensitive information about our business, which could result in diminished competitive advantages and loss of future business opportunities
  • Theft, loss, unauthorized disclosure, destruction or corruption of data and confidential information, including personal information about our customers or employees, that could result in financial loss, exposure to claims for damages by customers, employees and others, and difficulty in accessing materials to defend legal actions
  • Physical damage to network assets impacting service continuity
  • Litigation, fines and liability for failure to comply with privacy and information security laws
  • Fines and sanctions from credit card providers for failing to comply with payment card industry data security standards for protection of cardholder data
  • Regulatory investigations and increased audit and regulatory scrutiny that could divert resources from project delivery
  • Increased fraud as criminals leverage stolen information against us, our employees or our customers
  • Lost revenue resulting from the unauthorized use of proprietary information or the failure to retain or attract customers after an incident
  • Remediation costs such as liability for stolen information, equipment repairs and incentives to customers or business partners in an effort to maintain relationships after an incident
  • Increased information security protection costs, including the costs of deploying additional personnel and protection technologies, training employees and engaging third-party security experts
  • Higher insurance premiums

We evaluate and seek to adapt our security policies and procedures designed to protect our information and assets in light of the continuously evolving nature and sophistication of information security threats. However, given in particular the complexity and scale of our business, network infrastructure, technology and IT supporting systems, there can be no assurance that the security policies and procedures that we implement will prevent the occurrence of all potential information security breaches. In addition, there can be no assurance that any insurance we may have will cover all or part of the costs, damages, liabilities or losses that could result from the occurrence of any information security breach.





 49


       

4

MD&A Consolidated financial analysis  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


4 Consolidated financial analysis

This section provides detailed information and analysis about BCE’s performance in 2018 compared with 2017. It focuses on BCE’s consolidated operating results and provides financial information for our Bell Wireless, Bell Wireline and Bell Media business segments. For further discussion and analysis of our business segments, refer to section 5, Business segment analysis.

4.1 Introduction

BCE CONSOLIDATED INCOME STATEMENTS

 

 

2018   2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Operating revenues

               

Service

20,441   20,095   346   1.7 %

Product

3,027   2,662   365   13.7 %

Total operating revenues

23,468   22,757   711   3.1 %

Operating costs

(13,933 ) (13,475 ) (458 ) (3.4 %)

Adjusted EBITDA

9,535   9,282   253   2.7 %

Adjusted EBITDA margin

40.6 % 40.8 %     (0.2 ) pts

Severance, acquisition and other costs

(136 ) (190 ) 54   28.4 %

Depreciation

(3,145 ) (3,034 ) (111 ) (3.7 %)

Amortization

(869 ) (810 ) (59 ) (7.3 %)

Finance costs

               

Interest expense

(1,000 ) (955 ) (45 ) (4.7 %)

Interest on post-employment benefit obligations

(69 ) (72 ) 3   4.2 %

Other expense

(348 ) (102 ) (246 ) n.m.  

Income taxes

(995 ) (1,069 ) 74   6.9 %

Net earnings

2,973   3,050   (77 ) (2.5 %)

Net earnings attributable to:

               

Common shareholders

2,785   2,866   (81 ) (2.8 %)

Preferred shareholders

144   128   16   12.5 %

Non-controlling interest

44   56   (12 ) (21.4 %)

Net earnings

2,973   3,050   (77 ) (2.5 %)

Adjusted net earnings

3,151   3,058   93   3.0 %

Net earnings per common share (EPS)

3.10   3.20   (0.10 ) (3.1 %)

Adjusted EPS

3.51   3.42   0.09   2.6 %

n.m.: not meaningful


BCE STATEMENTS OF CASH FLOWS – SELECTED INFORMATION

 

  2018   2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Cash flows from operating activities

7,384   7,358   26   0.4 %

Capital expenditures

(3,971 ) (4,034 ) 63   1.6 %

Free cash flow

3,567   3,418   149   4.4 %

BCE delivered revenue growth of 3.1% in 2018, compared to last year, reflecting higher service and product revenues of 1.7% and 13.7%, respectively, driven by growth across all three of our segments. The year-over-year increase in service revenues continued to be led by strong growth in our wireless, Internet, and IPTV subscribers, higher residential household ARPU, increased media advertising and subscriber revenues, improved business markets performance attributable to higher IP connectivity and business solutions services revenue, along with the contribution from the acquisition of MTS. This more than offset the continued erosion in our voice, satellite TV and legacy data revenues.

The year-over-year increase in product revenues was driven by greater sales of premium wireless devices and higher equipment sales to large business customers.

Net earnings in 2018 decreased 2.5% compared to 2017, mainly due to higher other expense which included impairment charges of $200 million mainly relating to our Bell Media segment, higher depreciation and amortization expense, and higher finance costs. This was partly offset by higher adjusted EBITDA, as growing revenues more than offset an increase in operating costs, lower income taxes and lower severance, acquisition and other costs.





50

       
 

4

MD&A Consolidated financial analysis

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


Adjusted EBITDA grew by 2.7% in 2018, compared to last year, as a result of increases in our Bell Wireless and Bell Wireline segments, offset by a decline in our Bell Media segment. The year-over-year increase in adjusted EBITDA was driven by the flow-through of our revenue growth, ongoing disciplined cost containment and the contribution from our acquisition of MTS, offset in part by higher cost of goods sold relating to greater wireless handset sales and higher product sales to enterprise customers, along with escalating content and programming costs at Bell Media.

In 2018, BCE’s cash flows from operating activities increased $26 million, compared to 2017, due mainly to higher adjusted EBITDA, partly offset by a higher voluntary DB pension plan contribution made in 2018.

Free cash flow increased $149 million in 2018, compared to 2017, due mainly to higher cash flows from operating activities, excluding voluntary DB pension plan contributions, and acquisition and other costs paid, and lower capital expenditures.

4.2 Customer connections

TOTAL BCE CONNECTIONS

 

2018   2017   % CHANGE  

Wireless subscribers (1) (2)

9,610,482   9,166,787   4.8 %

Postpaid (1) (2)

8,830,216   8,418,650   4.9 %

Prepaid

780,266   748,137   4.3 %

High-speed Internet subscribers (1) (3)

3,933,931   3,790,141   3.8 %

TV (satellite and IPTV subscribers) (3)

2,853,081   2,832,300   0.7 %

IPTV (3)

1,675,706   1,550,317   8.1 %

Total growth services

16,397,494   15,789,228   3.9 %

Wireline residential NAS lines (3)

2,990,188   3,231,308   (7.5 %)

Total subscribers (4)

19,387,682   19,020,536   1.9 %

 

(1) At the beginning of Q1 2018, we adjusted our postpaid wireless subscriber base to remove 16,116 subscribers with a corresponding increase to our high-speed Internet subscribers to reflect the transfer of fixed wireless Internet subscribers.
(2) At the beginning of Q4 2018, we adjusted our postpaid wireless subscriber base to remove 20,000 subscribers that we divested to Xplornet as a result of BCE’s acquisition of MTS.
(3) At the beginning of Q1 2018, our high-speed Internet subscriber base was increased by 19,835, our IPTV by 14,599 and our residential NAS by 23,441, mainly as a result of a small acquisition made in Q1 2018.
(4) As of January 1, 2018, business NAS was removed from our NAS subscriber base due to its declining relevance as a KPI given migrations from voice to IP result in NAS losses without a corresponding decline in revenues. Previously reported periods were retroactively adjusted.

 

BCE NET ACTIVATIONS

  2018   2017   % CHANGE  

Wireless subscribers

479,811   333,084   44.1 %

Postpaid

447,682   416,779   7.4 %

Prepaid

32,129   (83,695 ) 138.4 %

High-speed Internet subscribers

107,839   87,860   22.7 %

TV (satellite and IPTV subscribers)

6,182   (20,716 ) 129.8 %

IPTV

110,790   107,712   2.9 %

Total growth services

593,832   400,228   48.4 %

Wireline residential NAS lines

(264,561 ) (242,094 ) (9.3 %)

Total subscribers

329,271   158,134   108.2 %

BCE added 593,832 net new customer connections to its growth services in 2018, representing a 48.4% increase over 2017. This consisted of:

  • 447,682 postpaid wireless customers, and 32,129 prepaid wireless customers
  • 107,839 high-speed Internet customers
  • 110,790 IPTV customers and 104,608 satellite TV net customer losses

Residential NAS net losses were 264,561 in 2018, an increase of 9.3% over 2017.

Total BCE customer connections across all services increased by 1.9% in 2018 compared to last year, driven by increases in our growth services customer base, offset in part by the ongoing erosion in traditional residential NAS lines.

At the end of 2018, BCE customer connections totaled 19,387,682 and were comprised of the following:

  • 9,610,482 wireless subscribers, up 4.8% compared to 2017, including 8,830,216 postpaid subscribers, an increase of 4.9% over last year, and 780,266 prepaid subscribers, up 4.3% year over year
  • 3,933,931 high-speed Internet subscribers, 3.8% higher year over year
  • 2,853,081 total TV subscribers, up 0.7% compared to 2017, including 1,675,706 IPTV customers, up 8.1% year over year and 1,177,375 satellite subscribers, down 8.2% compared to last year
  • 2,990,188 residential NAS lines, a decline of 7.5% compared to 2017




 51


       

4

MD&A Consolidated financial analysis  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


4.3 Operating revenues

 

 

 

2018   2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Bell Wireless

8,422   7,926   496   6.3 %

Bell Wireline

12,662   12,400   262   2.1 %

Bell Media

3,121   3,104   17   0.5 %

Inter-segment eliminations

(737 ) (673 ) (64 ) (9.5 %)

Total BCE operating revenues

23,468   22,757   711   3.1 %

 

BCE

Total operating revenues at BCE increased by 3.1% in 2018, compared to 2017, reflecting growth across all three of our segments, including the favourable impact from the acquisition of MTS. Total operating revenues were comprised of service revenues of $20,441 million and product revenues of $3,027 million in 2018, which grew by 1.7% and 13.7%, respectively, year over year. Wireless operating revenues increased by 6.3% in 2018, driven by service revenue growth of 3.5% and product revenue growth of 15.3%. Wireline operating revenues increased by 2.1% due to service revenue growth of 1.5%, from higher data and other service revenue, offset in part by a decline in voice revenue, and also reflected product revenue growth of 10.2%. Bell Media operating revenues increased by 0.5% in 2018 due to both higher subscriber and advertising revenues.

 

4.4 Operating costs

 

 

 

2018   2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Bell Wireless

(4,856 ) (4,550 ) (306 ) (6.7 %)

Bell Wireline

(7,386 ) (7,210 ) (176 ) (2.4 %)

Bell Media

(2,428 ) (2,388 ) (40 ) (1.7 %)

Inter-segment eliminations

737   673   64   9.5 %

Total BCE operating costs

(13,933 ) (13,475 ) (458 ) (3.4 %)

 

(1) Cost of revenues includes costs of wireless devices and other equipment sold, network and content costs, and payments to other carriers.
(2) Labour costs (net of capitalized costs) include wages, salaries and related taxes and benefits, post-employment benefit plans service cost, and other labour costs, including contractor and outsourcing costs.
(3) Other operating costs include marketing, advertising and sales commission costs, bad debt expense, taxes other than income taxes, IT costs, professional service fees and rent.

BCE

Total BCE operating costs increased by 3.4% in 2018, compared to 2017, resulting from higher costs in wireless of 6.7%, wireline of 2.4%, and Bell Media of 1.7%.




52

       
 

4

MD&A Consolidated financial analysis

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


4.5 Net earnings

In 2018, net earnings decreased by 2.5%, compared to 2017, mainly due to higher other expense which included impairment charges of $200 million mainly relating to our Bell Media segment, higher depreciation and amortization expense, and higher finance costs. This was partly offset by higher adjusted EBITDA, as growing revenues more than offset an increase in operating costs, lower income taxes and lower severance, acquisition and other costs.

4.6 Adjusted EBITDA

 

 

 

2018   2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Bell Wireless

3,566   3,376   190   5.6 %

Bell Wireline

5,276   5,190   86   1.7 %

Bell Media

693   716   (23 ) (3.2 %)

Total BCE adjusted EBITDA

9,535   9,282   253   2.7 %

 

BCE

BCE’s adjusted EBITDA increased by 2.7% in 2018, compared to 2017, driven by growth in our Bell Wireless segment of 5.6% and our Bell Wireline segment of 1.7%, offset in part by a decline in our Bell Media segment of 3.2%. The increase in adjusted EBITDA was due to revenue growth, partly offset by higher operating expenses, and includes the benefit from the acquisition of MTS. This resulted in an adjusted EBITDA margin of 40.6% in 2018, compared to 40.8% experienced last year, attributable to greater low-margin product sales in our total revenue base.


 

 53


       

4

MD&A Consolidated financial analysis  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


4.7 Severance, acquisition and other costs

This category includes various income and expenses that are not related directly to the operating revenues generated during the year.

2018

Severance, acquisition and other costs included:

  • Severance costs of $92 million for workforce reduction initiatives, which included a 4% reduction in management workforce across BCE
  • Acquisition and other costs of $44 million, which included transaction costs, such as legal and financial advisory fees, related to completed or potential acquisitions

2017

Severance, acquisition and other costs included:

  • Severance costs related to workforce reduction initiatives of $79 million
  • Acquisition and other costs of $111 million, which included transaction costs, such as legal and financial advisory fees, related to completed or potential acquisitions, severance and integration costs as well as a loss on transfer of spectrum licences to Xplornet related to the MTS acquisition

 

4.8 Depreciation and amortization

The amount of our depreciation and amortization in any year is affected by:

  • How much we invested in new property, plant and equipment and intangible assets in previous years
  • How many assets we retired during the year
  • Estimates of the useful lives of assets

DEPRECIATION

Depreciation in 2018 increased by $111 million, compared to 2017, mainly due to a higher asset base as we continued to invest in our broadband wireless networks as well as our IPTV service, and the acquisition of MTS.

AMORTIZATION

Amortization in 2018 increased by $59 million, compared to 2017, due mainly to a higher asset base and the acquisition of MTS.




54

       
 

4

MD&A Consolidated financial analysis

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


4.9 Finance costs

INTEREST EXPENSE

Interest expense in 2018 increased by $45 million, compared to 2017, mainly as a result of higher average debt levels, including the acquisition of MTS, and higher average interest rates on notes payable under commercial paper programs and loans securitized by trade receivables.

INTEREST ON POST-EMPLOYMENT BENEFIT OBLIGATIONS

Interest on our post-employment benefit obligations is based on market conditions that existed at the beginning of the year. On January 1, 2018, the discount rate was 3.6% compared to 4.0% on January 1, 2017.

In 2018, interest expense decreased by $3 million, compared to last year, due to a lower discount rate, partly offset by a higher post-employment benefit obligation at the beginning of the year.

The impacts of changes in market conditions during the year are recognized in other comprehensive income (loss) (OCI).

4.10 Other expense

Other expense includes income and expense items, such as:

  • Impairment of assets
  • Net mark-to-market gains or losses on derivatives used to economically hedge equity settled share-based compensation plans
  • Equity income or losses from investments in associates and joint ventures
  • Net gains or losses on investments, including gains or losses when we dispose of, write down or reduce our ownership in investments
  • Early debt redemption costs
  • Gains or losses on disposal and retirement of software, plant and equipment

2018

Other expense of $348  million included impairment charges of $200 million mainly related to our French TV channels and a brand within our Bell Media segment, and net mark-to-market losses on derivatives used to economically hedge equity settled share-based compensation plans of $80 million. Other expense also included losses from our equity investments of $35 million and losses on investments of $34 million, which included BCE’s obligations to repurchase at fair value the minority interest in one of BCE’s joint ventures and the minority interest in one of our subsidiaries, respectively.

2017

Other expense of $102 million included impairment charges of $82 million related to our music TV channels and two small market radio station cash-generating units (CGUs) within our Bell Media segment, losses on retirements and disposals of property, plant and equipment and intangible assets of $47 million, losses from our equity investments of $31 million which included BCE’s share of an obligation to repurchase at fair value the minority interest in one of BCE’s joint ventures, early debt redemption costs of $20 million, partly offset by net mark-to-market gains on derivatives used to economically hedge equity settled share-based compensation plans of $76 million.



 55


       

4

MD&A Consolidated financial analysis  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


4.11 Income taxes

The following table reconciles the amount of reported income taxes in the income statements with income taxes calculated at a statutory income tax rate of 27.0% and 27.1% for 2018 and 2017, respectively.

FOR THE YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31 2018   2017  

Net earnings

2,973   3,050  

Add back income taxes

995   1,069  

Earnings before income taxes

3,968   4,119  

Applicable statutory tax rate

27.0 % 27.1 %

Income taxes computed at applicable statutory rates

(1,071 ) (1,116 )

Non-taxable portion of losses on investments

(9 ) (1 )

Uncertain tax positions

68   16  

Effect of change in provincial corporate tax rate

  (3 )

Change in estimate relating to prior periods

20   51  

Non-taxable portion of equity losses

(10 ) (10 )

Other

7   (6 )

Total income taxes

(995 ) (1,069 )

Average effective tax rate

25.1 % 25.9 %

Income taxes in 2018 decreased by $74 million compared to 2017 due mainly to lower taxable income and a higher value of uncertain tax positions favourably resolved in 2018 compared to 2017.

 

4.12 Net earnings attributable to common shareholders and EPS

Net earnings attributable to common shareholders in 2018 decreased by $81 million, or $0.10 per common share, compared to 2017, due to higher other expense which included impairment charges of $200 million mainly relating to our Bell Media segment, higher depreciation and amortization expense, and higher finance costs. This was partly offset by higher adjusted EBITDA, as growing revenues more than offset an increase in operating costs, lower income taxes and lower severance, acquisition and other costs.

Excluding the impact of severance, acquisition and other costs, net mark-to-market (losses) gains on derivatives used to economically hedge equity settled share-based compensation plans, net losses on investments, early debt redemption costs and impairment charges, adjusted net earnings in 2018 was $3,151 million, or $3.51 per common share, compared to $3,058 million, or $3.42 per common share, in 2017.




56

       
 

4

MD&A Consolidated financial analysis

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


4.13 Capital expenditures

BCE capital expenditures of $3,971 million in 2018 declined $63 million, or 1.6%, compared to last year due to lower spending at Bell Wireless and Bell Media, partly offset by greater spending at Bell Wireline. Capital expenditures as a percentage of revenue also declined to 16.9% in 2018 compared to 17.7% in 2017. We continued to focus our strategic investments on the expansion of our FTTP footprint to more homes and businesses, the ongoing deployment of our LTE-A mobile network, spectrum carrier aggregation, the deployment of wireless small-cells to optimize mobile coverage, signal quality and data backhaul, along with the expansion of network capacity to support the growth in subscribers and data consumption and the initial rollout of fixed wireless broadband to rural locations in Ontario and Québec. Our capital expenditures also reflected the acquisition and integration of MTS.

4.14 Cash flows

In 2018, BCE’s cash flows from operating activities increased $26 million, compared to 2017, due mainly to higher adjusted EBITDA, partly offset by a higher voluntary DB pension plan contribution made in 2018.

Free cash flow increased $149 million in 2018, compared to 2017, due mainly to higher cash flows from operating activities, excluding voluntary DB pension plan contributions, and acquisition and other costs paid, and lower capital expenditures.





 57


       

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Wireless
 

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


5 Business segment analysis
5.1 Bell Wireless

A consistent focus on operating profitability and cash flow, together with disciplined postpaid subscriber growth and customer retention spending, drove strong overall financial performance in 2018.


FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS

2018 PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS

(1) At the beginning of Q1 2018, we adjusted our postpaid wireless subscriber base to remove 16,116 subscribers with a corresponding increase to our high-speed Internet subscribers to reflect the transfer of fixed wireless Internet subscribers.
(2) At the beginning of Q4 2018, we adjusted our postpaid wireless subscriber base to remove 20,000 subscribers that we divested to Xplornet as a result of BCE’s acquisition of MTS.
(3) Our Q1 2018 blended ARPU and blended ABPU were adjusted to exclude the unfavourable retroactive impact of the recent CRTC decision on wholesale wireless domestic roaming rates of $14 million.

BELL WIRELESS RESULTS

REVENUES

 

2018   2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

External service revenues

6,258   6,048   210   3.5 %

Inter-segment service revenues

48   42   6   14.3 %

Total operating service revenues

6,306   6,090   216   3.5 %

External product revenues

2,114   1,833   281   15.3 %

Inter-segment product revenues

2   3   (1 ) (33.3 %)

Total operating product revenues

2,116   1,836   280   15.3 %

Total Bell Wireless revenues

8,422   7,926   496   6.3 %

 


 

58

       
 

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Wireless

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



Bell Wireless operating revenues increased by 6.3% in 2018, compared to 2017, due to both higher service and product revenues.
  • Service revenues increased by 3.5% in 2018, compared to last year, due to:
    • The continued growth in our postpaid subscriber base
    • The contribution from the acquisition of MTS

These factors were partially offset by:

  • Lower blended ARPU
  • The unfavourable retroactive impact of the CRTC decision on wholesale wireless domestic roaming rates of $14 million
  • Product revenues grew by 15.3% in 2018, compared to the prior year, due to increased sales of premium handsets with higher retail prices along with greater gross activations and upgrade volumes.

OPERATING COSTS AND ADJUSTED EBITDA

 

2018   2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Operating costs

(4,856 ) (4,550 ) (306 ) (6.7 %)

Adjusted EBITDA

3,566   3,376   190   5.6 %

Total adjusted EBITDA margin

42.3 % 42.6 %     (0.3 ) pts

 

Bell Wireless operating costs increased by 6.7% in 2018, compared to 2017, as a result of:

  • Increased product cost of goods sold driven by higher sales volumes and increased handset costs
  • Higher network operating costs driven by the expansion of network capacity to support subscriber growth and increased data consumption
  • Greater labour costs to support key initiatives and growth of the business
  • Higher cost related to the acquisition of MTS

Bell Wireless adjusted EBITDA increased by 5.6% in 2018, compared to the last year, due to the flow-through of revenue growth, partly offset by higher operating expenses. Adjusted EBITDA margin, based on wireless operating revenues, declined by 0.3 pts to 42.3% in 2018, compared to 42.6% in 2017, driven by a greater proportion of low-margin product sales in our total revenue base.

BELL WIRELESS OPERATING METRICS

 

2018   2017   CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Blended ARPU ($/month) (1)

55.22   55.88   (0.66 ) (1.2 %)

Blended ABPU ($/month) (1)

67.76   67.77   (0.01 )  

Gross activations

1,954,792   1,780,478   174,314   9.8 %

Postpaid

1,615,764   1,532,425   83,339   5.4 %

Prepaid

339,028   248,053   90,975   36.7 %

Net activations

479,811   333,084   146,727   44.1 %

Postpaid

447,682   416,779   30,903   7.4 %

Prepaid

32,129   (83,695 ) 115,824   138.4 %

Blended churn % (average per month)

1.32 % 1.36 %     0.04  pts

Postpaid

1.16 % 1.19 %     0.03  pts

Prepaid

3.17 % 3.17 %      

Subscribers (2) (3)

9,610,482   9,166,787   443,695   4.8 %

Postpaid (2) (3)

8,830,216   8,418,650   411,566   4.9 %

Prepaid

780,266   748,137   32,129   4.3 %

 

(1) Our Q1 2018 blended ARPU and blended ABPU were adjusted to exclude the unfavourable retroactive impact of the recent CRTC decision on wholesale wireless domestic roaming rates of $14 million.
(2) At the beginning of Q1 2018, we adjusted our postpaid wireless subscriber base to remove 16,116 subscribers with a corresponding increase to our high-speed Internet subscribers to reflect the transfer of fixed wireless Internet subscribers.
(3) At the beginning of Q4 2018, we adjusted our postpaid wireless subscriber base to remove 20,000 subscribers that we divested to Xplornet as a result of BCE’s acquisition of MTS.

Blended ARPU of $55.22 decreased by 1.2% in 2018, compared to the last year, driven by:

  • Decreased voice and data overages due to increased customer adoption of plans with greater usage thresholds
  • Lower ARPU generated from the contract with Shared Services Canada (SSC)
  • Dilutive impact from the continued ramp-up in prepaid customers from Lucky Mobile, our low-cost prepaid mobile service launched in December 2017
  • Greater allocation of revenues to product revenues due to a larger proportion of premium smartphones in our sales mix combined with higher retail handset prices

These factors were partly offset by:

  • Greater proportion of customers choosing higher-value monthly plans with greater data allotments
  • Flow-through of 2017 and 2018 pricing changes


 59


       

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Wireless
 

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



Blended ABPU approximates the average amount billed to customers on a monthly basis and is the same as blended ARPU prior to the adoption of IFRS 15. Blended ABPU of $67.76 remained stable in 2018, compared to the prior year, and was similarly impacted by the items affecting ARPU. However, since ABPU is based on average billing, it is not impacted by the greater allocation to product revenues.

Total gross wireless activations increased by 9.8% in 2018, compared to 2017, due to both higher postpaid and prepaid gross activations.

  • Postpaid gross activations increased by 5.4% in 2018, compared to the prior year, driven by the continued on-boarding of customers from the contract with SSC, as well as reflecting our mobile network speed and technology leadership and effective sales execution across our retail channels
  • Prepaid gross activations increased by 36.7% in 2018, compared to the last year, driven by the ramp-up of Lucky Mobile

Blended wireless churn of 1.32% improved by 0.04 pts in 2018, compared to 2017, primarily reflecting an improvement in postpaid churn.

  • Postpaid churn of 1.16% improved by 0.03 pts in 2018, compared to 2017, due to the favourable impact of our ongoing investments in network speeds, customer retention and improved client experience
  • Prepaid churn of 3.17% remained stable year over year

Postpaid net activations increased by 7.4% in 2018, compared to the last year, driven by an increase in gross activations, offset in part by higher customer deactivations.

Prepaid net activations increased by 115,824 or 138.4% in 2018, compared to 2017, driven by higher gross activations and lower customer deactivations.

Wireless subscribers at December 31, 2018 totaled 9,610,482, an increase of 4.8% from 9,166,787 subscribers reported at the end of 2017. At the beginning of Q1 2018, we adjusted our postpaid wireless subscriber base to remove 16,116 subscribers with a corresponding increase to our high-speed Internet subscribers to reflect the transfer of fixed wireless Internet subscribers. Additionally, at the beginning of Q4 2018, we adjusted our postpaid wireless subscriber base to remove 20,000 subscribers as a result of the divestiture to Xplornet related to the acquisition of MTS. The proportion of Bell Wireless customers subscribing to our postpaid service remained stable year over year at 92%.


COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE AND INDUSTRY TRENDS

COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE

The wireless market is the largest sector of the Canadian telecommunications industry, representing over 50% of total revenues, and is currently growing at a mid-single digit rate annually.

The Canadian wireless industry has experienced strong subscriber growth in recent years, supported by immigration and population growth; the trend toward multiple devices, including tablets; the expanding functionality of data and related applications; and mobile adoption by both younger and older generations. The wireless penetration rate increased to approximately 89% in Canada at the end of 2018, with further increases in penetration expected to continue in 2019. By comparison, the wireless penetration rate in the U.S. is well over 100%, and even higher in Europe and Asia.

In 2018, the wireless market was characterized by heightened retention and acquisition activity and the associated high costs of device subsidies on two-year contracts, a heightened level of competitive intensity, and the continued adoption of higher-value, data-centric smartphones. While higher handset costs, increased subsidies and the frequency of customer device upgrades put pressure on industry margins, adoption of the latest smartphones generally has a positive impact on ABPU and churn rates.

The market continues to be highly competitive among three well-established national competitors as well as a number of regional competitors. Rogers Communications Inc. (Rogers) holds the largest share by virtue of its legacy global system for mobile communications (GSM) network. However, Bell has had significant success winning subscribers over the past decade, supported by the launch of our HSPA+, 4G LTE and LTE-A networks, industry-leading mobile network speeds, expanded retail distribution, the purchase of Virgin Mobile, a strong brand and improved customer service.

Shaw Communications Inc.’s (Shaw) Freedom Mobile has focused on the build-out of an urban LTE network in major cities in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. Shaw’s re-farming of advanced wireless services-1 (AWS-1) spectrum and deployment of 2,500 MHz spectrum was completed in 2018, making older smartphone versions (iPhones and Galaxy) compatible with Freedom’s LTE network. Québecor Media’s Vidéotron Ltée (Vidéotron) continues to operate as a regional facilities-based wireless service provider in Québec, and Eastlink in Atlantic Canada. These cable TV-based wireless providers, in addition to the provincial carrier in Saskatchewan, represent the fourth carrier in their respective markets.



60

       
 

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Wireless

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report





Competitors

  • Large facilities-based national wireless service providers Rogers and the Telus Corporation group of companies (Telus)
  • Smaller facilities-based wireless service provider Freedom Mobile, which currently provides service in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Ottawa, as well as in several communities in southwestern Ontario
  • Regional facilities-based wireless service providers Vidéotron, which provides service in Montréal and other parts of Québec; Saskatchewan Telecommunications Holding Corporation (SaskTel), which provides service in Saskatchewan; Eastlink, which provides service in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; and Xplornet, which launched service in Manitoba in November 2018
  • Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), who resell competitors’ wireless networks, such as PC Mobile

INDUSTRY TRENDS

ACCELERATING DATA CONSUMPTION

Wireless data growth continues to be driven by the ongoing adoption of higher-value smartphones and tablets, and associated data plans. The demand for wireless data services is expected to continue to grow, due to ongoing investment in faster network technologies, such as LTE, LTE-A and 5G, that provide a richer user experience and lower network latency, a larger appetite for mobile connectivity, social networking and other applications, as well as increasing adoption of shared plans with multiple devices by families. Greater customer adoption of data services, including mobile TV, data roaming for travel, mobile commerce, mobile banking, and other IoT applications in the areas of retail and transportation (connected car, asset tracking, and remote monitoring) should also contribute to growth. In the consumer market, IoT represents a growth area for the industry as wireless connectivity on everyday devices, from home automation to cameras, becomes ubiquitous.

SIGNIFICANT INVESTMENTS IN WIRELESS NETWORKS

Fast growth in mobile data traffic is increasingly putting a strain on wireless carriers’ networks and their ability to manage and service this traffic. Industry Canada’s 700 MHz, advanced wireless services-3 (AWS-3), and 2500 MHz spectrum auctions that concluded in 2014 and 2015 provided wireless carriers with prime spectrum to roll out faster next-generation wireless networks and build greater capacity. Carrier aggregation is a technology currently being employed by Canadian wireless carriers that allows for multiple channels of spectrum to be used together, thereby significantly increasing network capacity and data transfer rates. Investments in fibre backhaul to cell sites and the deployment of small-cell technology further increase the efficient utilization of carriers’ spectrum holdings.

CUSTOMERS BRINGING THEIR OWN DEVICES

With the CRTC’s Wireless Code limiting wireless contract terms to two years from three years, the number of customers on expired contracts has increased. Subscribers are increasingly bringing their own devices or keeping their existing devices for longer periods of time and therefore may not enter into new contracts for wireless services. This may negatively impact carriers’ subscriber churn, but may also create gross addition opportunities as a result of increased churn from other carriers. Additionally, this trend may negatively impact the monthly service fees charged to subscribers; however, the service revenue generated by these customers helps improve margins due to lower spending on device subsidies.





 61


       

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Wireless
 

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


BUSINESS OUTLOOK AND ASSUMPTIONS

2019 OUTLOOK

We expect revenue growth to be driven primarily by postpaid and prepaid subscriber base expansion. We expect ABPU to continue to be impacted negatively by reductions in data and voice overage revenue resulting from larger data allotments and talk minutes in monthly rate plans, as well as the onboarding of customer activations from the federal SSC contract and Lucky Mobile prepaid customer growth. We will seek to achieve higher revenues from the flow-through of pricing changes, data growth through increased customer usage of our 4G LTE and LTE-A networks, higher demand for services such as social media, music and streaming of content, as well as nascent services including mobile commerce and other IoT applications. Our intention is to introduce new services to the market in a way that balances innovation with profitability.

We also remain focused on sustaining our market share of incumbent postpaid net additions in a disciplined and cost-conscious manner, while also growing our share of new industry prepaid net additions.

We plan to deliver adjusted EBITDA growth in 2019 from flow through of higher revenue, which should be partly offset by increased operating costs reflecting higher handset costs and increased customer support costs due to growth in the subscriber base and increased network operating expenses.

ASSUMPTIONS

  • Maintain our market share of incumbent wireless postpaid net additions
  • Higher prepaid customer net additions
  • Continued adoption of smartphone devices, tablets and data applications, as well as the introduction of more 4G LTE and LTE-A devices and new data services
  • Higher subscriber acquisition and retention spending, driven by higher handset costs and more customer device upgrades
  • Improving blended ABPU, driven by a higher postpaid smartphone mix, increased data consumption on 4G LTE and LTE-A networks, and higher access rates partly offset by the impact of a higher prepaid mix in our overall subscriber base and more customer migrations from Bell Mobility’s SSC contract
  • Expansion of the LTE-A network coverage to approximately 94% of the Canadian population, and continued 5G preparations with network technology trials, as well as the deployment of small cells and equipping all new sites with fibre
  • Ability to monetize increasing data usage and customer subscriptions to new data services
  • No material financial, operational or competitive consequences of changes in regulations affecting our wireless business

KEY GROWTH DRIVERS
  • Increasing Canadian wireless industry penetration
  • Greater number of customers on our 4G LTE and LTE-A networks
  • Increasing customer adoption of smartphones, tablets and other 4G LTE and LTE-A devices to increase mobile data usage
  • Customer usage of new data applications and services

PRINCIPAL BUSINESS RISKS

This section discusses certain principal business risks specifically related to the Bell Wireless segment. For a detailed description of the principal risks that could have a material adverse effect on our business, refer to section 9, Business risks.

AGGRESSIVE COMPETITION

RISK

  • The intensity of competitive activity from incumbent wireless operators, newer wireless entrants, non-traditional players and resellers

POTENTIAL IMPACT

  • Pressure on our adjusted EBITDA, ABPU, churn and cost of acquisition and retention would likely result if competitors continue to aggressively increase discounts for handsets and price plans, offer shared plans based on sophisticated pricing requirements or offer other incentives, such as new data plans or unlimited data plans, instalment plans for smartphones or multi-product bundles, to attract new customers
REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT

RISK

  • Greater regulation of wireless services, pricing and infrastructure (e.g. additional mandated access to wireless networks and limitations placed on future spectrum bidding)

POTENTIAL IMPACT

  • Greater regulation could limit our flexibility, influence the market structure, improve the business positions of our competitors and negatively impact the financial performance of our wireless business
MARKET MATURITY AND INCREASED DEVICE COSTS

RISK

  • Slower subscriber growth due to high Canadian smartphone penetration and increased device costs

POTENTIAL IMPACT

  • A maturing wireless market and higher device costs could challenge subscriber growth and cost of acquisition and retention, putting pressure on the financial performance of our wireless business



62

       
 

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Wireline

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


5.2 Bell Wireline

Bell Wireline achieved stronger organic revenue and adjusted EBITDA growth in 2018, reflecting robust Internet and IPTV subscriber base expansion, higher household ARPU, improved business markets results and operating cost savings that maintained a North American industry-leading margin of 41.7%.


FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS

2018 PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS

(1) At the beginning of Q1 2018, our high-speed Internet subscriber base was increased by 19,835, our IPTV by 14,599 and our residential NAS by 23,441, mainly as a result of a small acquisition made in Q1 2018.
(2) At the beginning of Q1 2018, we adjusted our high-speed Internet subscriber base to add 16,116 subscribers with a corresponding decrease to our postpaid wireless subscribers to reflect the transfer of fixed wireless Internet subscribers.



 63


       

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Wireline
 

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



BELL WIRELINE RESULTS

REVENUES

 

2018   2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Data

7,466   7,192   274   3.8 %

Voice

3,793   3,968   (175 ) (4.4 %)

Other services

247   211   36   17.1 %

Total external service revenues

11,506   11,371   135   1.2 %

Inter-segment service revenues

241   199   42   21.1 %

Total operating service revenues

11,747   11,570   177   1.5 %

Data

466   410   56   13.7 %

Equipment and other

447   419   28   6.7 %

Total external product revenues

913   829   84   10.1 %

Inter-segment product revenues

2   1   1   100.0 %

Total operating product revenues

915   830   85   10.2 %

Total Bell Wireline revenues

12,662   12,400   262   2.1 %

Bell Wireline operating revenues grew by 2.1% in 2018, compared to last year, driven by increases in data services, other services, and product revenues, partly offset by the ongoing decline in voice revenues.

Bell Wireline operating service revenues increased by 1.5% in 2018, compared to 2017.

  • Data revenues increased by 3.8% in 2018, compared to 2017, due to:
    • The flow-through of 2017 and 2018 pricing changes
    • Internet and IPTV subscriber growth
    • The contribution from the acquisition of MTS
    • Increased IP connectivity and business solutions services sales to enterprise customers, including the contribution from the acquisition of Axia in late August 2018

These factors were partially offset by:

  • Greater acquisition, retention and bundle discounts on residential services due to aggressive offers from cable competitors
  • The continued decline in our satellite TV subscriber base
  • Ongoing legacy data erosion due in part to migrations to IP-based services
  • Competitive pricing pressures within our business markets
  • Voice revenues declined by 4.4% in 2018, compared to 2017, driven by:
    • Continued NAS line erosion from technological substitution to wireless and Internet-based services
    • Large business customer conversions to IP-based data services
    • Competitive pricing pressures
    • Long distance rate pressure in our residential market from customer adoption of premium rate plans
    • Reduced usage of traditional long distance services by residential and business customers

These factors were partially offset by:

  • The contribution from the acquisition of MTS
  • The flow-through of 2017 and 2018 pricing changes
  • Higher sales of international long distance minutes in our wholesale market
  • Other services revenues increased by 17.1% in 2018, primarily due to the contribution from the acquisition of AlarmForce.

Bell Wireline operating product revenues grew by 10.2% in 2018, compared to prior year, resulting from increased demand for equipment by large business customers, higher sales of consumer electronics at The Source and the contribution from the acquisition of MTS.

OPERATING COSTS AND ADJUSTED EBITDA

 

2018   2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Operating costs

(7,386 ) (7,210 ) (176 ) (2.4 %)

Adjusted EBITDA

5,276   5,190   86   1.7 %

Adjusted EBITDA margin

41.7 % 41.9 %     (0.2 ) pts

Bell Wireline operating costs increased by 2.4% in 2018, compared to 2017, attributable to:

  • Acquisitions, including MTS
  • Greater cost of goods sold attributable to increased product sales
  • Increased business solutions services costs associated with the revenue growth
  • Higher pension expense due to a gain in Q1 2017 on post-employment benefit expense related to an alignment of certain Bell Aliant DB pension plans with those of Bell Canada
  • Increased fleet and real estate costs due in part to rate increases

These factors were partially offset by:

  • Lower labour costs resulting from workforce reductions, fewer call volumes to our customer service centres and vendor contract savings

Bell Wireline adjusted EBITDA increased by 1.7% in 2018, compared to 2017, as a result of the flow-through of the revenue growth, offset in part by higher operating expenses. Adjusted EBITDA margin decreased to 41.7% in 2018, compared to the 41.9% achieved last year, due mainly to more low-margin product sales in the total revenue base.




64

       
 

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Wireline

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



BELL WIRELINE OPERATING METRICS

DATA

High-speed Internet

 

2018   2017   CHANGE   % CHANGE  

High-speed Internet net activations

107,839   87,860   19,979   22.7 %

High-speed Internet subscribers (1) (2)

3,933,931   3,790,141   143,790   3.8 %

 

(1) At the beginning of Q1 2018, our high-speed Internet subscriber base was increased by 19,835, mainly as a result of a small acquisition made in Q1 2018.
(2) At the beginning of Q1 2018, we adjusted our high-speed Internet subscriber base to add 16,116 subscribers with a corresponding decrease to our postpaid wireless subscribers to reflect the transfer of fixed wireless Internet subscribers.

High-speed Internet subscriber net activations increased by 22.7% in 2018, compared to 2017, driven by increased retail activations in our expanded FTTP footprint, richer retail offers, greater IPTV pull-through and higher activations in our business markets. This was partly offset by higher deactivations resulting from aggressive offers from cable competitors in both our retail and wholesale markets, combined with a larger number of residential customers coming off promotional offers.

High-speed Internet subscribers at December 31, 2018 totaled 3,933,931, up 3.8% from the end of last year. At the beginning of Q1 2018, our high-speed Internet subscriber base was increased by 19,835, mainly as a result of a small acquisition. We further adjusted our subscriber base in Q1 2018 to add 16,116 subscribers with a corresponding decrease to our postpaid wireless subscribers to reflect the transfer of fixed wireless Internet subscribers.

 

TV

 

2018   2017   CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Net subscriber activations (losses)

6,182   (20,716 ) 26,898   129.8 %

IPTV

110,790   107,712   3,078   2.9 %

Total subscribers (1)

2,853,081   2,832,300   20,781   0.7 %

IPTV (1)

1,675,706   1,550,317   125,389   8.1 %

 

(1) At the beginning of Q1 2018, our IPTV subscriber base was increased by 14,599 as a result of a small acquisition made in Q1 2018.

IPTV net subscriber activations increased by 2.9% in 2018, compared to last year, driven by ongoing growth in activations from our application-based live TV service Alt TV, combined with greater activations in our expanded FTTP footprint. This was moderated by increased deactivations due to aggressive residential offers for service bundles from cable competitors, a higher number of retail customers coming off promotional offers, increased substitution of traditional TV services with OTT services, the impact of maturing Fibe TV markets, along with fewer customer migrations from satellite TV.

Satellite TV net customer losses improved by 18.5% in 2018, compared to 2017, driven by lower retail deactivations and reduced migrations to IPTV, attributable to a more mature subscriber base geographically better-suited for satellite TV service, combined with a reduced number of retail customers coming off promotional offers and fewer promotional offers from cable competitors in rural markets.

Total TV net subscriber activations (IPTV and satellite TV combined) increased by 26,898 in 2018, compared to 2017, due to lower satellite TV net losses and higher IPTV net activations.

IPTV subscribers at December 31, 2018 totaled 1,675,706, up 8.1% from 1,550,317 subscribers reported at the end of 2017. At the beginning of Q1 2018, our IPTV subscriber base was increased by 14,599, as a result of a small acquisition.

Satellite TV subscribers at December 31, 2018 totaled 1,177,375, down 8.2% from 1,281,982 subscribers at the end of last year.

Total TV subscribers (IPTV and satellite TV combined) at December 31, 2018 were 2,853,081, representing a 0.7% increase since the end of 2017. At the beginning of Q1 2018, our total TV subscriber base was increased by 14,599, as a result of a small acquisition.

 

VOICE

 

2018   2017   CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Residential NAS lines (1)

2,990,188   3,231,308   (241,120 ) (7.5 %)

Residential NAS net losses

(264,561 ) (242,094 ) (22,467 ) (9.3 %)

 

(1) At the beginning of Q1 2018, our residential NAS subscriber base was increased by 23,441 as a result of a small acquisition made in Q1 2018.

Residential NAS net losses increased by 9.3% in 2018, compared to last year, driven by lower activations attributable to ongoing wireless and Internet-based technology substitution, lower acquisition of three-product households, reduced pull-through from our IPTV service bundle offers, as well as aggressive competitive offers from cable TV providers.

Residential NAS subscribers at December 31, 2018 totaled 2,990,188, representing a 7.5% decrease compared to the 3,231,308 subscribers reported at the end of 2017. This represents a significant decline over the 0.6% subscriber base erosion experienced in 2017, which benefited from the subscribers acquired from MTS. At the beginning of Q1 2018, our residential NAS subscriber base was increased by 23,441, as a result of a small acquisition.





 65


       

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Wireline
 

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE AND INDUSTRY TRENDS

COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE

The financial performance of the overall Canadian wireline telecommunications market continues to be impacted by the ongoing declines in legacy voice service revenues resulting from technological substitution to wireless and OTT services, as well as by ongoing conversion to IP-based data services and networks by large business customers. Sustained competition from cable companies also continues to erode traditional telephone providers’ market share of residential local telephony. Canada’s four largest cable companies had approximately 3.8 million telephony subscribers at the end of 2018, representing a national residential market share of approximately 45%. Other non-facilities-based competitors also offer local and long distance VoIP services and resell high-speed Internet services.

Although the residential Internet market is maturing, with over 86% penetration across Canada, subscriber growth is expected to continue over the next several years. At the end of 2018, the four largest cable companies had more than 7 million Internet subscribers, representing 54% of the total Internet market based on publicly reported data (1), while incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) held the remaining 46% or 6 million subscribers. Bell continues to make market share gains due to the expansion of our fibre optic network and the pull-through of subscribers from our IP-based Fibe TV and Alt TV services.

While Canadians still watch traditional TV, digital platforms are playing an increasingly important role in the broadcasting industry. Popular online video services are providing Canadians with more choice about where, when and how to access their video content. In 2018, ILECs offering IPTV service grew their subscriber bases by 8% to reach 2.9 million customers, driven by expanded network coverage, enhanced service offerings, and marketing and promotions focused on IPTV. This growth came at the expense of cable TV and satellite TV subscriber losses. At the end of the year, Canada’s four largest cable companies had approximately 5.5 million TV subscribers, or a 53% market share, compared to 55% at the end of 2017.

In 2018, our primary cable TV competitor in Ontario, Rogers, launched Ignite TV, based on Comcast’s XFINITY X1 video platform. Vidéotron, our primary cable TV competitor in Québec, has announced its intention to adopt the Comcast X1 platform in 2019.

Competitors
  • Cable TV providers offering cable TV, Internet and cable telephony services, including:
    • Rogers in Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador
    • Vidéotron in Québec
    • Cogeco Cable Inc. (a subsidiary of Cogeco Inc.) (Cogeco) in Ontario and Québec
    • Shaw in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario
    • Shaw Direct, providing satellite TV service nationwide
    • Eastlink in every province except Saskatchewan, where it does not provide cable TV and Internet service
  • Telus provides residential voice, Internet and IPTV services in British Columbia, Alberta and Eastern Québec
  • Telus and Allstream Inc. provide wholesale products and business services across Canada
  • Various others (such as TekSavvy Solutions, Distributel, VMedia, and Vonage Canada (a division of Vonage Holdings Corp.) (Vonage) offer resale or VoIP-based local, long distance and Internet services
  • OTT voice and video services such as Skype, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube
  • Digital media streaming devices such as Apple TV, Roku and Google Chromecast
  • Other Canadian ILECs and cable TV operators
  • Substitution to wireless services, including those offered by Bell
  • Customized managed outsourcing solutions competitors, such as systems integrators CGI, EDS (a division of HP Enterprise Services) and IBM
  • Wholesale competitors include cable operators, domestic CLECs, U.S. or other international carriers for certain services, and electrical utility-based telecommunications providers
  • Competitors for home security range from local to national companies, such as ADT, Chubb Security, Stanley Security, Fluent and MONI Smart Security

(1) Internet services provided by resellers are included as wholesale Internet subscribers for cable companies and ILECs.




66

       
 

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Wireline

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



INDUSTRY TRENDS

INVESTMENT IN BROADBAND FIBRE DEPLOYMENT

The Canadian ILECs continue to make substantial investments in deploying broadband fibre within their territories, with a focus on direct FTTP access to maintain and enhance their ability to support enhanced IP-based services and higher broadband speeds. Cable TV companies continue to evolve their cable networks with the gradual rollout of the DOCSIS 3.1 platform. Although this platform increases speeds in the near term and is cost-efficient, it does not offer the same advanced capabilities as FTTP over the longer term. FTTP delivers broadband speeds of up to 1.5 Gbps currently, with faster speeds expected in the future as equipment evolves to support these higher speeds. Going forward, ILECs are expected to maintain high levels of capital spending for the ongoing expansion of their broadband fibre networks, with an increasing emphasis on upgrading current FTTN networks to FTTP.

ALTERNATIVE TV AND OTT SERVICES

The growing popularity of watching TV and on-demand content anywhere, particularly on handheld devices, is expected to continue as customers adopt services that enable them to view content on multiple screens. Streaming media providers, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, continue to enhance OTT streaming services in order to compete for share of viewership in response to evolving viewing habits and consumer demand. TV providers are monitoring OTT developments and evolving their content and market strategy to compete with these non-traditional offerings. We view OTT as an opportunity to add increased capabilities to our linear and on-demand assets, provide customers with flexible options to choose the content they want and drive greater usage of Bell’s high-speed Internet and wireless networks. We continue to enhance our Fibe TV service with additional content and capabilities, including the ability to watch recorded content on the go and access Netflix and YouTube on STBs. We also launched Alt TV in 2017, Canada’s first widely available app-based live TV service, to address the growing cord-cutting and cord-shaving markets, providing users with the ability to consume live and on-demand content on laptops, smartphones, tablets and Apple TV without the need for a traditional TV STB.

TECHNOLOGY SUBSTITUTION

Technology substitution, enabled by the broad deployment of higher speed Internet; the pervasive use of e-mail, messaging and social media as alternatives to voice services; and the growth of wireless and VoIP services, continues to drive legacy voice revenue declines for telecommunications companies. Wireless-only households were estimated to represent approximately 46% of households in Ontario, Québec and Atlantic Canada at the end of 2018, compared to approximately 43% at the end of 2017, while the disconnection of and reduction in spending for traditional TV (cord-cutting and cord-shaving) continues to rise. Although Bell is a key provider of these substitution services, the decline in this legacy business continues as anticipated.

ADOPTION OF IP-BASED SERVICES

The convergence of IT and telecommunications, facilitated by the ubiquity of IP, continues to shape competitive investments for business customers. Telecommunications companies are providing professional and managed services, as well as other IT services and support, while IT service providers are bundling network connectivity with their software as service offerings. In addition, manufacturers continue to bring all-IP and converged (IP plus legacy) equipment to market, enabling ongoing migration to IP-based solutions. The development of IP-based platforms, which provide combined IP voice, data and video solutions, creates potential cost efficiencies that compensate, in part, for reduced margins resulting from the continuing shift from legacy to IP-based services. The evolution of IT has created significant opportunities for our business markets services, such as cloud services and data hosting, that can have a greater business impact than traditional telecommunications services.


BUSINESS OUTLOOK AND ASSUMPTIONS

2019 OUTLOOK

We expect to generate positive revenue and adjusted EBITDA growth in 2019. This is predicated on a continued strong broadband Internet and TV subscriber growth trajectory supported by a broadening direct FTTP service footprint; the deployment of full broadband Internet service into rural locations with fixed wireless WTTP technology, scaling of Alt TV and new innovative TV features enabled by the new MediaFirst IPTV platform; annual residential price increases; improving year-over-year business markets performance; as well as cost reductions to counter competitive repricing pressures and the ongoing decline in voice revenues.

TV subscriber growth within our wireline footprint is expected to be driven by increasing Fibe TV penetration of existing IPTV-enabled neighbourhoods and ongoing enhancements enabled by the MediaFirst platform. We also intend to seek greater penetration within the multiple-dwelling units (MDU) market and to combat the competitive impact of OTT video streaming services and a growing cord-cutter market with our Alt TV service. Although satellite TV net customer losses are expected to continue in 2019, as a result of aggressive residential promotional offers from cable competitors, they are expected to moderate, due to fewer residential deactivations and customer migrations to IPTV reflecting a more mature subscriber base geographically better-suited for satellite TV service.

Internet subscriber base growth in 2019 is expected to be driven by a growing direct fibre service footprint together with increased household penetration of FTTP; the rollout of higher-speed fixed wireless broadband Internet service in rural markets enabled by our WTTP deployment; the pull-through of IPTV customer activations, including from Bell’s app-based live TV streaming service Alt TV; and enhancing Bell’s leadership position in Smart Home automation with services such as Whole Home Wi-Fi and home security.


 67


       

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Wireline
 

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



In business wireline, although the economy is growing, customers continue to look for opportunities to lower costs. As a result, telecom spending by large enterprise customers is expected to be variable and improve at a modest pace. This, combined with ongoing customer migration to IP-based systems and demand for cheaper bandwidth alternatives with faster speeds, will likely continue to negatively impact overall business markets results in 2019. We intend on seeking to minimize the overall revenue decline from legacy services by leveraging our market position to develop unique services and value enhancements, which further improve client experience by providing more features with improved flexibility to support client needs on demand. We intend to use marketing initiatives to slow NAS erosion, while investing in direct fibre expansion and new solutions in key portfolios such as Internet and private networks, data centre and cloud services, unified communications, security services and IoT. We will continue to deliver network-centric managed and professional services solutions to large and mid-sized businesses that increase the value of connectivity services.

We also expect to experience sustained competitive intensity in our mass and mid-sized business markets as cable operators and other telecom competitors maintain their focus on these customer segments. We also intend to introduce service offerings that help drive innovative solutions and value for our mass and mid-sized customers by leveraging Bell’s network assets, broadband fibre expansion and service capabilities to expand our relationships with them. We will maintain a focus on overall profitability by seeking to increase revenue per customer and customer retention, as well as through improving our processes to achieve further operating efficiencies and productivity gains.

Operating cost reduction will continue to be a key focus for our Bell Wireline segment, helping to offset costs related to the growth and retention of IPTV, Internet, IP broadband and hosted IP voice subscribers, the ongoing erosion of high-margin wireline voice and other legacy revenues, as well as competitive repricing pressures in our residential, business and wholesale markets. This, combined with further operating efficiencies driven by an expanding FTTP footprint, changes in consumer behaviour with product and customer service innovation, and the realization of additional synergies from the next phases of integration of Bell MTS, is expected to support our objective of maintaining our adjusted EBITDA margin relatively stable year over year.

ASSUMPTIONS

  • Positive full-year adjusted EBITDA growth
  • Continued growth in residential IPTV and Internet subscribers
  • Increasing wireless and Internet-based technological substitution
  • Residential services household ARPU growth from increased penetration of multi-product households and price increases
  • Continued aggressive residential service bundle offers from cable TV competitors in our local wireline areas
  • Continued large business customer migration to IP-based systems
  • Ongoing competitive repricing pressures in our business and wholesale markets
  • Continued competitive intensity in our small and mid-sized business markets as cable operators and other telecommunications competitors continue to intensify their focus on business customers
  • Traditional high-margin product categories challenged by large global cloud and OTT providers of business voice and data solutions expanding into Canada with on-demand services
  • Accelerating customer adoption of OTT services resulting in downsizing of TV packages
  • Further deployment of direct fibre to more homes and businesses within our wireline footprint and an acceleration in our fixed WTTP rural buildout
  • Growing consumption of OTT TV services and on-demand streaming video, as well as the proliferation of devices, such as tablets, that consume large quantities of bandwidth, will require considerable ongoing capital investment
  • Realization of cost savings related to management workforce reductions including attrition and retirements, lower contracted rates from our suppliers, operating efficiencies enabled by a growing direct fibre footprint, changes in consumer behaviour and product innovation, as well as the realization of additional synergies from the next phases of integration of MTS
  • No material financial, operational or competitive consequences of changes in regulations affecting our wireline business

KEY GROWTH DRIVERS
  • Expansion of FTTP footprint
  • Buildout of fixed wireless WTTP network in rural markets
  • Increasing FTTP and WTTP penetration of households
  • Higher market share of industry TV and Internet subscribers
  • Increased business customer spending on connectivity services and managed and professional services solutions
  • Expansion of our business customer relationships to drive higher revenue per customer
  • Ongoing service innovation and product value enhancements




68

       
 

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Wireline

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


PRINCIPAL BUSINESS RISKS

This section discusses certain principal business risks specifically related to the Bell Wireline segment. For a detailed description of the principal risks that could have a material adverse effect on our business, refer to section 9, Business risks.

AGGRESSIVE COMPETITION

RISK

  • The intensity of competitive activity coupled with new product launches (e.g., IoT, smart home systems and devices, innovative TV platforms, etc.) from incumbent operators, non-traditional players and wholesalers

POTENTIAL IMPACT

  • An increase in the intensity level of competitive activity could result in higher churn, increased acquisition and retention expenses and increased use of promotional competitive offers to acquire and keep customers, all of which would put pressure on Bell Wireline’s adjusted EBITDA

 

REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT

RISK

  • The CRTC mandates rates for the new disaggregated wholesale high-speed access service available on FTTP facilities that are materially different from the rates we proposed, and which do not sufficiently account for the investment required in these facilities

POTENTIAL IMPACT

  • The mandating of rates for the new disaggregated wholesale high-speed access service available on FTTP facilities that are materially different from the rates we proposed could improve the business position of our competitors, further accelerate penetration and disintermediation by OTT players, and change our investment strategy, especially in relation to investment in next-generation wireline networks in smaller communities and rural areas

 

CHANGING CUSTOMER BEHAVIOUR

RISK

  • The traditional TV viewing model (i.e., the subscription for bundled channels) is challenged by an increasing number of legal and illegal viewing options available in the market offered by traditional, non-traditional and global players, as well as increasing cord-cutting and cord-shaving trends
  • Changing customer habits further contribute to the erosion of NAS lines

POTENTIAL IMPACT

  • Our market penetration and number of TV subscribers could decline as a result of BDU offerings, an increasing number of domestic and global unregulated OTT providers, as well as a significant volume of content piracy. The proliferation of IP-based products, including OTT content offerings directly to consumers, may accelerate the disconnection of TV services or the reduction of TV spending
  • The ongoing loss of NAS lines from technological substitution to wireless and Internet-based services and large business customer conversions to IP-based data services challenge our traditional voice revenues and compel us to develop other service offerings




 69


       

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Media
 

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


5.3 Bell Media

Bell Media generated positive revenue growth in 2018, driven by stronger TV advertising performance, growth in direct-to-consumer video streaming services and higher OOH advertising revenue, as operating costs grew due to increased costs for sports broadcast rights and content investments that support TV and on-demand programming.


FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS

2018 PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS

 

BELL MEDIA RESULTS

REVENUES

 

2018   2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Total external revenues

2,677   2,676   1    

Inter-segment revenues

444   428   16   3.7 %

Total Bell Media revenues

3,121   3,104   17   0.5 %

 


70

       
 

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Media

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



Bell Media operating revenues increased by 0.5% in 2018, compared to 2017, driven by both higher subscriber and advertising revenues compared to last year.
  • Subscriber revenues grew in 2018, compared to last year, mainly due to:
    • Continued growth in our TV Everywhere products
    • Rate increases to certain BDUs
    • The contribution from TSN and RDS Direct, our direct-to-consumer sports streaming services that were launched in June 2018

These factors were partially offset by fewer subscribers.

  • Advertising revenues increased in 2018, compared to 2017, mainly driven by:
    • Higher specialty TV advertising revenues led by the broadcast of the 2018 FIFA World Cup along with improved audience levels and rate increases
    • Higher OOH advertising revenues from increased demand on digital faces
    • Continued growth in our digital TV properties

These factors were partially offset by:

  • Lower overall audience levels and the ongoing shift in customer spending to OTT and digital platforms, which unfavourably impacted conventional TV and radio
  • The shift in advertising dollars in Q1 2018 to the main broadcaster of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics

OPERATING COSTS AND ADJUSTED EBITDA

 

2018   2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Operating costs

(2,428 ) (2,388 ) (40 ) (1.7 %)

Adjusted EBITDA

693   716   (23 ) (3.2 %)

Adjusted EBITDA margin

22.2 % 23.1 %     (0.9 ) pts

Bell Media operating costs increased by 1.7% in 2018, compared to last year, mainly due to continued escalation of programming and content costs for sports broadcast rights, including the 2018 FIFA World Cup rights and ongoing content expansion for our Crave products, as well as deal renewals for specialty TV programming.

Bell Media adjusted EBITDA declined by 3.2% in 2018, compared to 2017, as the higher operating expenses more than offset the growth in operating revenues.

BELL MEDIA OPERATING METRICS

  • CTV maintained its #1 ranking as the most-watched network in Canada for the 17th year in a row, and continued to lead with 10 of the top 20 programs nationally in all key demographics
  • Bell Media maintained its leadership position in the specialty and pay TV market, with its English specialty and pay TV properties reaching 84% of all Canadian English specialty and pay viewers and its French specialty and pay TV properties reaching 71% of French language TV viewers in an average week. Bell Media also ranked first with TSN, Canada’s most-watched specialty TV channel and RDS, the top French-language sports network.
  • Bell Media continued to rank first in digital media among Canadian broadcast and video network competitors, and sixth among online properties in the country, with 20.6 million unique visitors per month, reaching 67% of the digital audience
  • Bell Media remained Canada’s top radio broadcaster, reaching 16.6 million listeners who spent 71.7 million hours tuned in each week during 2018
  • Astral is one of Canada’s leading OOH advertising companies, reaching 14 million consumers weekly, with an offering of five innovative product lines and owning more than 31,000 advertising faces at the end of 2018 strategically located in key urban cities across the country

COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE AND INDUSTRY TRENDS

COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE

Competition in the Canadian media industry has changed in recent years as traditional media assets are increasingly being controlled by a small number of competitors with significant scale and financial resources. Technology has allowed new entrants to become media players in their own right. Some players have become more vertically integrated across both traditional and emerging platforms to better enable the acquisition and monetization of premium content. Global aggregators have also emerged and are competing for both content and viewers.

Bell Media competes in the video, radio, OOH advertising and digital media markets:

  • Video: The TV market has become increasingly fragmented and this trend is expected to continue as new services and technologies increase the diversity of information and entertainment outlets available to consumers
  • Radio: Competition within the radio broadcasting industry occurs primarily in discrete local market areas among individual stations
  • OOH: The Canadian OOH advertising industry is fragmented, consisting of a few large companies as well as numerous smaller and local companies operating in a few local markets
  • Digital media: Consumers continue to shift their media consumption towards digital and online media, mobile devices and on-demand content, requiring industry players to increase their efforts in digital content and capabilities in order to compete. This trend is also causing advertisers to direct more of their spending to digital and online rather than traditional media. In addition, the number of competitors has increased as more digital and online media companies, including large global companies, enter the market.




 71


       

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Media
 

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



Competitors

TV

  • Conventional Canadian TV stations (local and distant signals) and specialty and pay channels, such as those owned by Corus, Rogers, Québecor, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)/Société Radio-Canada (SRC) and Groupe V
  • U.S. conventional TV stations and specialty channels
  • OTT streaming providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and DAZN
  • Video-sharing websites such as YouTube

RADIO

  • Large radio operators, such as Rogers, Corus, Cogeco and Stingray Group Inc. (Stingray) that also own and operate radio station clusters in various local markets
  • Radio stations in specific local markets
  • Satellite radio provider SiriusXM
  • Music streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play Music
  • Music downloading services such as Apple’s iTunes Store
  • Other media such as newspapers, local weeklies, TV, magazines, outdoor advertising and the Internet

OOH ADVERTISING

  • Large outdoor advertisers, such as Jim Pattison Broadcast Group, Outfront Media, Québecor, Dynamic and Clear Channel Outdoor
  • Numerous smaller and local companies operating a limited number of display faces in a few local markets
  • Other media such as TV, radio, print media and the Internet

INDUSTRY TRENDS

TECHNOLOGY AND CONSUMER HABITS TRANSFORMING THE WAY TV IS DELIVERED

Technology used in the media industry continues to evolve rapidly, which has led to alternative methods for the distribution, storage and consumption of content. These technological developments have driven and reinforced changes in consumer behaviour as consumers seek more control over when, where and how they consume content. Consumers now have the ability to watch content from a variety of media services on the screen of their choice, including TVs, computers, and mobile devices. The number of Canadian users who are connected to the Internet through their TVs is growing as connection becomes easier and more affordable. Changes in technology and consumer behaviour have resulted in a number of challenges for content aggregators and distributors. Ubiquitous access to content enabled by connected devices introduces risk to traditional distribution platforms by enabling content owners to provide content directly to distributors and consumers, thus bypassing traditional content aggregators.

GROWTH OF ALTERNATIVES TO TRADITIONAL LINEAR TV

Consumers continue to have access to an array of online entertainment and information alternatives that did not previously exist. While traditional linear TV has historically been the only way to access entertainment programming, the increase in alternative entertainment options has led to a fragmentation in consumption habits. Traditional linear TV still remains the most common form of video consumption, but people are increasingly consuming content on their own terms from an assortment of services and in a variety of formats. In particular, today’s viewers are consuming more content online, watching less scheduled programming live, time-shifting original broadcasts through PVRs, viewing more video on mobile devices, and catching up on an expanded library of past programming on-demand. While the majority of households use pure OTT services, like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, to complement linear TV consumption, an increasing number are leveraging these services as alternatives to a traditional linear package.




72

       
 

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Media

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



ESCALATING CONTENT COSTS

Premium video content has become increasingly important to media companies in attracting and retaining viewers and advertisers. This content, including live sports and special events, should continue to draw audiences and advertisers moving forward. Heightened competition for these rights from global competitors, including Netflix, Amazon, and DAZN, has already resulted in higher program rights costs, which is a trend that is expected to continue into the future.

MEDIA COMPANIES ARE EVOLVING TO REMAIN COMPETITIVE

In recognition of changing consumer behaviour, media companies are evolving their content and launching their own solutions with the objective of better competing with non-traditional offerings through direct-to-consumer services such as Bell Media’s Crave, TSN and RDS products, as well as authenticated TV Everywhere services featuring a series of apps including CTV, Discovery and Bravo. Access to live sports and other premium content has become even more important for acquiring and retaining audiences that in turn attract advertisers and subscriber revenue. Therefore, ownership of content and/or long-term agreements with content owners has also become increasingly important to media companies. In the future, short-form video content is expected to represent an area of focus for media companies seeking to connect with a different segment of the market.


BUSINESS OUTLOOK AND ASSUMPTIONS

2019 OUTLOOK

Subscriber revenue performance is expected to reflect higher anticipated rates from BDU carriage renewals, further growth in Crave, and continued scaling of direct-to-consumer products. However, the effects of shifting media consumption towards competing OTT and digital platforms, further TV cord-shaving and cord-cutting, as well as the financial impact of higher content costs for video, will continue to weigh on adjusted EBITDA in 2019. While the advertising market is expected to continue to be impacted by audience declines in 2019, we anticipate that our pricing and strategic initiatives will offset some of this pressure.

We also intend to continue controlling costs by leveraging assets, achieving productivity gains and pursuing operational efficiencies across all of our media properties, while continuing to invest in premium content across all screens and platforms.

In our video properties, we intend to leverage the strength of our market position combined with enhanced audience targeting to continue offering advertisers, both nationally and locally, premium opportunities to reach their target audiences. Success in this area requires that we focus on a number of factors, including: successfully acquiring highly rated programming and differentiated content; building and maintaining strategic supply arrangements for content across all screens and platforms; producing and commissioning high-quality Canadian content, including market-leading news; and further developing our data-enhanced planning, activation and measurement tools, which we introduced in 2018.

Our sports specialty video offerings are expected to continue to deliver premium content and exceptional viewing experiences to our TV and direct-to-consumer audiences. Our NFL and NHL offerings, combined with the integration of our digital platforms, are integral parts of our strategy to enhance viewership and engagement. We will also continue to focus on creating innovative high-quality productions in the areas of sports news and editorial coverage.

In non-sports specialty TV, audiences and advertising revenues are expected to be driven by investment in quality programming and production. As part of our objective to drive revenue growth, we intend to capitalize on our competitive position in key specialty services to improve both channel strength and channel selection.

Through the recent launch of the new Crave, we will continue to leverage our investments in premium content (including HBO, SHOWTIME and STARZ) in order to attract Pay TV and direct-to-consumer subscribers.

In our French-language pay and specialty services, we will continue to optimize our programming with a view to increasing our appeal to audiences.

In radio, we intend to leverage the strength of our market position to continue offering advertisers, both nationally and locally, premium opportunities to reach their target audiences. Additionally, in conjunction with our local TV properties, we will continue to pursue opportunities that leverage our promotional capabilities, provide an expanded platform for content sharing, and offer other synergistic efficiencies.

In our OOH operations, we plan to leverage the strength of our products to provide advertisers with premium opportunities in key Canadian markets. We will also continue to seek new opportunities in digital markets, including converting certain premium outdoor structures to digital.

ASSUMPTIONS

  • Revenue performance expected to reflect further Crave subscriber growth, flow-through of BDU rate increases, and strategic pricing on advertising sales
  • Operating cost growth driven by higher programming costs, mainly due to continued investment in Crave content
  • Continued scaling of Crave and sports direct-to-consumer products
  • Ability to successfully acquire and produce highly rated programming and differentiated content
  • Building and maintaining strategic supply arrangements for content across all screens and platforms
  • Monetization of content rights and Bell Media properties across all platforms
  • TV unbundling and growth in OTT viewing expected to result in lower subscriber levels for many Bell Media video properties
  • No material financial, operational or competitive consequences of changes in regulations affecting our media business



 73


       

5

MD&A Business segment analysis
Bell Media
 

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


KEY GROWTH DRIVERS
  • Leveraging data to better inform media planning, activation, and measurement
  • Enhancing digital strategy, including scaling of direct-to-consumer products
  • Successful renewal of BDU agreements
  • Establishing unique partnerships and strategic content investments
  • Converting premium OOH structures to digital

PRINCIPAL BUSINESS RISKS

This section discusses certain principal business risks specifically related to the Bell Media segment. For a detailed description of the principal risks that could have a material adverse effect on our business, refer to section 9, Business risks.

AGGRESSIVE COMPETITION AND REGULATORY CONSTRAINTS

RISK

  • The intensity of competitive activity from traditional TV services, as well as from new technologies and alternative distribution platforms such as unregulated OTT content offerings, VOD, personal video platforms, pirated content and video services over mobile devices and the Internet, in combination with regulations that require all BDUs to make TV services available à la carte
  • Acceleration among non-traditional global players developing more aggressive product and sales strategies in creating and distributing video

POTENTIAL IMPACT

  • Adverse impact on the level of subscriptions and/or viewership for Bell Media’s TV services and on Bell Media’s revenue streams
ADVERTISING AND SUBSCRIPTION REVENUE UNCERTAINTY

RISK

  • Advertising is heavily dependent on economic conditions and viewership, as well as on our ability to grow alternative advertising media such as digital and OOH platforms, in the context of a changing and fragmented advertising market. Conventional media is under increasing pressure for advertising spend against dominant non-traditional/global digital services
  • Bell Media has contracts with a variety of BDUs, under which monthly subscription fees for specialty and pay TV services are earned, that expire on a specific date

POTENTIAL IMPACT

  • Economic uncertainty could reduce advertisers’ spending. Our failure to increase or maintain viewership or capture our share of the changing and fragmented advertising market could result in the loss of advertising revenue
  • If we are not successful in obtaining favourable agreements with BDUs, it could result in the loss of subscription revenue
RISING CONTENT COSTS AND ABILITY TO SECURE KEY CONTENT

RISK

  • Rising content costs, as an increasing number of domestic and global competitors seek to acquire the same content, and the ability to secure key content to drive revenues and subscriber growth

POTENTIAL IMPACT

  • Rising programming costs could require us to incur unplanned expenses, which could result in negative pressure on adjusted EBITDA
  • Our inability to acquire popular programming content could adversely affect Bell Media’s viewership and subscription levels and, consequently, advertising and subscription revenues

 


74

       
 

6

MD&A Financial and capital management

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


6 Financial and capital management

This section tells you how we manage our cash and capital resources to carry out our strategy and deliver financial results. It provides an analysis of our financial condition, cash flows and liquidity on a consolidated basis.

6.1 Net debt

 

  DECEMBER 31, 2018   DECEMBER 31, 2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Debt due within one year

4,645   5,178   (533 ) (10.3 %)

Long-term debt

19,760   18,215   1,545   8.5 %

Preferred shares (1)

2,002   2,002      

Cash and cash equivalents

(425 ) (625 ) 200   32.0 %

Net debt

25,982   24,770   1,212   4.9 %

 

(1) 50% of outstanding preferred shares of $4,004 million in 2018 and 2017 are classified as debt, consistent with the treatment by some credit rating agencies.

The increase of $1,012 million in total debt, comprised of debt due within one year and long-term debt, was due to:

  • the issuance by Bell Canada of Series M-47 and M-48 MTN debentures with total principal amounts of $500 million and $1 billion, respectively
  • the issuance of Series US-1 Notes with a total principal amount of US $1,150 million (C$1,493 million)
  • a net increase of $242 million in our other debt and finance lease obligations

Partly offset by:

  • the early redemption of Series M-25 MTN debentures in the principal amount of $1 billion
  • the early redemption of Series M-28 MTN debentures in the principal amount of $400 million
  • the early redemption of Series M-33 debentures in the principal amount of $300 million
  • the early redemption of Series 9 notes in the principal amount of $200 million
  • the early redemption of Series 8 notes in the principal amount of $200 million
  • a decrease in our notes payable (net of issuances) of $123 million

The decrease in cash and cash equivalents of $200 million was due mainly to:

  • $2,679 million of dividends paid on BCE common shares
  • $395 million paid for business acquisitions mainly related to the acquisitions of AlarmForce and Axia
  • $240 million paid for a voluntary DB pension plan contribution
  • $222 million paid for the purchase on the open market of shares for the settlement of share-based payments
  • $175 million paid for the repurchase of common shares through a NCIB
  • $79 million acquisition and other costs paid
  • $56 million paid for the acquisition of spectrum licences
  • $51 million return of capital to non-controlling interest (NCI)

Partly offset by:

  • $3,567 million of free cash flow
  • $160 million of debt issuances (net of repayments)
  • $68 million of disposition of intangibles and other assets for the sale of AlarmForce’s approximate 39,000 customer accounts to Telus
6.2 Outstanding share data

 

COMMON SHARES OUTSTANDING NUMBER
OF SHARES
 

Outstanding, January 1, 2018

900,996,640  

Shares issued for the acquisition of AlarmForce

22,531  

Shares issued under employee stock option plan

266,941  

Repurchase of common shares

(3,085,697 )

Outstanding, December 31, 2018

898,200,415  

 

STOCK OPTIONS OUTSTANDING NUMBER
OF OPTIONS
  WEIGHTED AVERAGE
EXERCISE PRICE ($)
 

Outstanding, January 1, 2018

10,490,249   55  

Granted

3,888,693   56  

Exercised (1)

(266,941 ) 42  

Forfeited

(39,669 ) 58  

Outstanding, December 31, 2018

14,072,332   56  

Exercisable, December 31, 2018

4,399,588   52  

 

(1) The weighted average share price for options exercised in 2018 was $55.

At March 7, 2019, 898,497,707 common shares and 17,135,086 stock options were outstanding.


 75


       

6

MD&A Financial and capital management  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


6.3 Cash flows

 

  2018   2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Cash flows from operating activities

7,384   7,358   26   0.4 %

Capital expenditures

(3,971 ) (4,034 ) 63   1.6 %

Cash dividends paid on preferred shares

(149 ) (127 ) (22 ) (17.3 %)

Cash dividends paid by subsidiaries to non-controlling interest

(16 ) (34 ) 18   52.9 %

Acquisition and other costs paid

79   155   (76 ) (49.0 %)

Voluntary DB pension plan contribution

240   100   140   n.m.  

Free cash flow

3,567   3,418   149   4.4 %

Business acquisitions

(395 ) (1,649 ) 1,254   76.0 %

Acquisition and other costs paid

(79 ) (155 ) 76   49.0 %

Voluntary DB pension plan contribution

(240 ) (100 ) (140 ) n.m.  

Acquisition of spectrum licences

(56 )   (56 ) n.m.  

Disposition of intangibles and other assets

68   323   (255 ) (78.9 %)

Other investing activities

(32 ) (77 ) 45   58.4 %

Net issuance of debt instruments

160   691   (531 ) (76.8 %)

Issue of common shares

11   117   (106 ) (90.6 %)

Repurchase of common shares

(175 )   (175 ) n.m.  

Purchase of shares for settlement of share-based payments

(222 ) (224 ) 2   0.9 %

Cash dividends paid on common shares

(2,679 ) (2,512 ) (167 ) (6.6 %)

Return of capital to non-controlling interest

(51 )   (51 ) n.m.  

Other financing activities

(77 ) (60 ) (17 ) (28.3 %)

Net decrease in cash and cash equivalents

(200 ) (228 ) 28   12.3 %

n.m.: not meaningful


CASH FLOWS FROM OPERATING ACTIVITIES AND FREE CASH FLOW

In 2018, BCE’s cash flows from operating activities increased $26 million, compared to 2017, due mainly to higher adjusted EBITDA, partly offset by a higher voluntary DB pension plan contribution made in 2018.

Free cash flow increased $149 million in 2018, compared to 2017, due mainly to higher cash flows from operating activities, excluding voluntary DB pension plan contributions, and acquisition and other costs paid, and lower capital expenditures.


CAPITAL EXPENDITURES

 

  2018   2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Bell Wireless

656   731   75   10.3 %

Capital intensity ratio

7.8 % 9.2 %     1.4  pts

Bell Wireline

3,201   3,174   (27 ) (0.9 %)

Capital intensity ratio

25.3 % 25.6 %     0.3  pts

Bell Media

114   129   15   11.6 %

Capital intensity ratio

3.7 % 4.2 %     0.5  pts

BCE

3,971   4,034   63   1.6 %

Capital intensity ratio

16.9 % 17.7 %     0.8  pts

 




76

       
 

6

MD&A Financial and capital management

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



BCE capital expenditures of $3,971 million in 2018, declined by 1.6% or  $63  million compared to last year. Capital expenditures as a percentage of revenue (capital intensity ratio) also declined in 2018 to 16.9%, compared to 17.7% in 2017. The decrease in capital spending was driven by lower spending in Bell Wireless and Bell Media, partly offset by higher spending in our Bell Wireline segment. The year-over-year decrease reflected:
  • Lower capital spending in our wireless segment of $75 million in 2018, due to a slower pace of spending compared to last year. Wireless capital investment continued to focus on the expansion of our LTE-A network, which reached 91% of the Canadian population at December 31, 2018, spectrum carrier aggregation, the deployment of wireless small-cells to optimize mobile coverage, signal quality and data backhaul, along with the expansion of network capacity to support the growth in subscribers and data consumption.
  • Lower capital spending at Bell Media of $15 million in 2018, due to greater investments last year relating to the execution of OOH contract wins and upgrades to Bell Media broadcast studios and TV production equipment
  • Higher capital investment in our wireline segment of $27 million in 2018, driven by the continued deployment of broadband fibre directly to more homes and businesses, the initial rollout of fixed wireless broadband Internet to rural locations in Ontario and Québec and the acquisition and integration of MTS

BUSINESS ACQUISITIONS

On August 31, 2018, BCE completed the acquisition of all of the issued and outstanding common shares of Axia for a total cash consideration of $155 million.

On January 5, 2018, BCE acquired all of the issued and outstanding shares of AlarmForce for a total consideration of $182 million, of which $181 million was paid in cash and the remaining $1 million through the issuance of 22,531 BCE common shares.

On March 17, 2017, BCE acquired all of the issued and outstanding common shares of MTS for a total consideration of $2,933 million, of which $1,339 million was paid in cash and the remaining $1,594 million through the issuance of approximately 27.6 million BCE common shares.

On January 3, 2017, BCE acquired all of the issued and outstanding common shares of Cieslok Media Ltd. for a total cash consideration of $161 million.


VOLUNTARY DB PENSION PLAN CONTRIBUTION

In 2018, we made a voluntary contribution of $240 million, compared to a voluntary contribution of $100 million in 2017, to fund our post-employment benefit obligation. The voluntary contributions were funded from cash on hand at the end of 2018 and 2017. This will reduce the amount of BCE’s future pension funding obligations and the use of letters of credit for funding deficits.


DISPOSITION OF INTANGIBLE AND OTHER ASSETS

During Q1 2018, BCE sold AlarmForce’s approximate 39,000 customer accounts in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan to Telus for total proceeds of approximately $68 million.

During Q2  2017, BCE completed the divestiture of approximately one-quarter of postpaid wireless subscribers and 15 retail locations previously held by MTS, as well as certain Manitoba network assets, to Telus for total proceeds of $323 million.


DEBT INSTRUMENTS

We use a combination of short-term and long-term debt to finance our operations. Our short-term debt consists mostly of notes payable under commercial paper programs, loans securitized by trade receivables and bank facilities. We usually pay fixed rates of interest on our long-term debt and floating rates on our short-term debt. As at December 31, 2018, all of our debt was denominated in Canadian dollars with the exception of our commercial paper and Series US-1 Notes, both of which are denominated in U.S. dollars and have been hedged for foreign currency fluctuations through forward currency contracts and cross currency basis swaps, respectively.

2018

We issued $160 million of debt, net of repayments. This included the issuances at Bell Canada of Series M-47 and M-48 MTN debentures with total principal amounts of $500 million and $1 billion, respectively, and the issuances of Series US-1 Notes with a total principal amount of US $1,150 million (C$1,493 million). These issuances were partly offset by the early redemption of Series M-25 and M-28 MTN debentures, Series M-33 debentures, Series 9 notes and Series 8 notes in the principal amounts of $1 billion, $400 million, $300 million, $200 million and $200 million, respectively, payments of finance leases and other debt of $610 million and net repayments of $123 million of notes payable.

2017

We issued $691 million of debt, net of repayments. This included the issuances of Series M-40 MTN, M-44 MTN, M-45 MTN and M-46 MTN debentures at Bell Canada with total principal amounts of $700 million, $1 billion, $500 million and $800 million, respectively and the net issuance of $333 million of notes payable. These issuances were partly offset by the early redemption of Series M-22  MTN, M-35  and M-36 debentures in the principal amounts of $1 billion, $350 million and $300 million, respectively, payments of finance leases and other debt of $512  million and the repayment of borrowings under our unsecured committed term credit facility of $480 million.




 77


       

6

MD&A Financial and capital management  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


REPURCHASE OF COMMON SHARES

In Q1 2018, BCE repurchased and cancelled 3,085,697 common shares for a total cost of $175 million. Of the total cost, $69 million represents stated capital and $3 million represents the reduction of the contributed surplus attributable to these common shares. The remaining $103 million was charged to the deficit.


CASH DIVIDENDS PAID ON COMMON SHARES

In 2018, cash dividends paid on common shares of $2,679 million increased by $167 million compared to 2017, due to a higher dividend paid in 2018 of $2.9825 per common share compared to $2.835 per common share in 2017 and a higher average number of outstanding common shares, principally as a result of shares issued for the acquisition of MTS.

6.4 Post-employment benefit plans

For the year ended December 31, 2018, we recorded a decrease in our post-employment benefit obligations and a gain, before taxes, in OCI of $92 million. This was due to a higher actual discount rate of 3.8% at December 31, 2018, compared to 3.6% at December 31, 2017. The gain was partly offset by a lower-than-expected return on plan assets.

For the year ended December 31, 2017, we recorded an increase in our post-employment benefit obligations and a loss, before taxes, in OCI of $338 million. This was due to a lower actual discount rate of 3.6% at December 31, 2017, compared to 4.0% at December 31, 2016. The loss was partly offset by a higher-than-expected return on plan assets.

6.5 Financial risk management

Management’s objectives are to protect BCE and its subsidiaries on a consolidated basis against material economic exposures and variability of results from various financial risks that include credit risk, liquidity risk, foreign currency risk, interest rate risk, equity price risk and longevity risk. These risks are further described in Note 2, Significant accounting policies, Note 8, Other expense, Note 24, Post-employment benefit plans and Note 26, Financial and capital management in BCE’s 2018 consolidated financial statements.

The following table outlines our financial risks, how we manage these risks and their financial statement classification.

FINANCIAL
RISK
DESCRIPTION
OF RISK
MANAGEMENT OF RISK AND
FINANCIAL STATEMENT CLASSIFICATION

Credit risk

We are exposed to credit risk from operating activities and certain financing activities, the maximum exposure of which is represented by the carrying amounts reported in the statements of financial position. We are exposed to credit risk if counterparties to our trade receivables and derivative instruments are unable to meet their obligations.

  • Large and diverse customer base
  • Deal with institutions with investment-grade credit ratings
  • Regularly monitor our credit risk and exposure
  • Our trade receivables and allowance for doubtful accounts balances at December 31, 2018 were $3,026 million and $51 million, respectively
  • Our contract assets and allowance for doubtful accounts balances at December 31, 2018 were $1,584 million and $91 million, respectively
Liquidity risk We are exposed to liquidity risk for financial liabilities.
  • Sufficient cash from operating activities, possible capital markets financing and committed bank facilities to fund our operations and fulfill our obligations as they become due
  • Refer to section 6.7, Liquidity – Contractual obligations, for a maturity analysis of our recognized financial liabilities
Foreign currency risk We are exposed to foreign currency risk related to anticipated transactions and certain foreign currency debt.

A 10% depreciation (appreciation) in the value of the Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar would result in a loss (gain) of $2 million (nil) recognized in net earnings at December 31, 2018 and a gain (loss) of $140 million ($132 million) recognized in OCI at December 31, 2018, with all other variables held constant.

Refer to the following Fair value section for details on our derivative financial instruments.

  • Foreign currency forward contracts on our anticipated transactions and commercial paper maturing in 2019 to 2021 of $3.5 billion in U.S. dollars ($4.6 billion in Canadian dollars) at December 31, 2018, to manage foreign currency risk related to anticipated transactions and foreign currency debt
    • For cash flow hedges, changes in the fair value are recognized in OCI, except for any ineffective portion, which is recognized immediately in earnings in Other expense. Realized gains and losses in Accumulated OCI are reclassified to the income statements or to the initial cost of the non-financial asset in the same periods as the corresponding hedged transactions are recognized.
    • For economic hedges, changes in the fair value are recognized in Other expense
  • In 2018, we entered into cross currency basis swaps with a notional amount of $1,150 in U.S. dollars ($1,493 million in Canadian dollars). These cross currency basis swaps are used to hedge the U.S. currency exposure of our Series US-1 Notes maturing in 2048.
    • For cross currency basis swaps, changes in the fair value of these derivatives and the related debt are recognized in Other expense in the income statements and offset, unless a portion of the hedging relationship is ineffective



78

       
 

6

MD&A Financial and capital management

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


FINANCIAL
RISK
DESCRIPTION
OF RISK
MANAGEMENT OF RISK AND
FINANCIAL STATEMENT CLASSIFICATION
Interest rate risk We are exposed to risk on the interest rates of our debt, our post-employment benefit plans and on dividend rate resets on our preferred shares.

A 1% increase (decrease) in interest rates would result in a decrease (increase) of $31 million in net earnings at December 31, 2018.

Refer to the following Fair value section for details on our derivative financial instruments.

  • We use interest rate swaps to manage the mix of fixed and floating interest rates of our debt. We also use interest rate locks to hedge the interest rates on future debt issuances and to economically hedge dividend rate resets on preferred shares.
  • There were no interest rate swaps and locks outstanding as of December 31, 2018
  • For our post-employment benefit plans, the interest rate risk is managed using a liability matching approach which reduces the exposure of the DB pension plans to a mismatch between investment growth and obligation growth
Equity price risk

 

We are exposed to risk on our cash flow related to the settlement of equity settled share-based compensation plans and the equity price risk related to a cash-settled share-based payment plan.

A 5% increase (decrease) in the market price of BCE’s common shares at December 31, 2018 would result in a gain (loss) of $34 million recognized in net earnings for 2018, all other variables held constant.

Refer to the following Fair value section for details on our derivative financial instruments.

  • Equity forward contracts with a fair value of $73 million at December 31, 2018 on BCE’s common shares to economically hedge the cash flow exposure related to the settlement of equity settled share-based compensation plans and the equity price risk related to a cash-settled share-based payment plan
    • Changes in the fair value are recorded in the income statements in Operating costs for derivatives used to hedge a cash-settled share-based payment plan and Other expense for derivatives used to hedge equity-settled share-based payment plans
Longevity risk We are exposed to life expectancy risk on our post-employment benefit plans.
  • The Bell Canada pension plan has an investment arrangement to hedge part of its exposure to potential increases in longevity which covers approximately $5 billion of post-employment benefit obligations


FAIR VALUE

Fair value is the price that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability in an orderly transaction between market participants at the measurement date.

Certain fair value estimates are affected by assumptions we make about the amount and timing of future cash flows and discount rates, all of which reflect varying degrees of risk. Income taxes and other expenses that would be incurred on disposition of financial instruments are not reflected in the fair values. As a result, the fair values are not the net amounts that would be realized if these instruments were settled.

The carrying values of our cash and cash equivalents, trade and other receivables, dividends payable, trade payables and accruals, compensation payable, severance and other costs payable, interest payable, notes payable and loans secured by trade receivables approximate fair value as they are short-term.

The following table provides the fair value details of financial instruments measured at amortized cost in the statements of financial position.

      DECEMBER 31, 2018 DECEMBER 31, 2017
  CLASSIFICATION FAIR VALUE METHODOLOGY CARRYING
VALUE
  FAIR
VALUE
  CARRYING
VALUE
  FAIR
VALUE
 
CRTC tangible benefits obligation Trade payables and other liabilities and non-current liabilities Present value of estimated future cash flows discounted using observable market interest rates 61   61   111   110  
CRTC deferral account obligation Trade payables and other liabilities and non-current liabilities Present value of estimated future cash flows discounted using observable market interest rates 108   112   124   128  
Debt securities, finance leases and other debt Debt due within one year and long-term debt Quoted market price of debt or present value of future cash flows discounted using observable market interest rates 20,285   21,482   19,321   21,298  

 




 79


       

6

MD&A Financial and capital management  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



The following table provides the fair value details of financial instruments measured at fair value in the statements of financial position.
   

FAIR VALUE

  CLASSIFICATION CARRYING VALUE OF
ASSET (LIABILITY)
  QUOTED PRICES IN
ACTIVE MARKETS
FOR IDENTICAL
ASSETS (LEVEL 1)
 

OBSERVABLE
MARKET DATA
(LEVEL 2)
(1)

 

NON-OBSERVABLE
MARKET INPUTS
(LEVEL 3)
(2)

 
December 31, 2018                  
Publicly-traded and privately-held investments (3) Other non-current assets 110   1     109  
Derivative financial instruments Other current assets, trade payables and other liabilities, other non-current assets and liabilities 181     181    
MLSE financial liability (4) Trade payables and other liabilities (135 )     (135 )
Other Other non-current assets and liabilities 43     114   (71 )
December 31, 2017                  
Publicly-traded and privately-held investments (3) Other non-current assets 103   1     102  
Derivative financial instruments Other current assets, trade payables and other liabilities, other non-current assets and liabilities (48 )   (48 )  
MLSE financial liability (4) Trade payables and other liabilities (135 )     (135 )
Other Other non-current assets and liabilities 60     106   (46 )

 

(1) Observable market data such as equity prices, interest rates, swap rate curves and foreign currency exchange rates.
(2) Non-observable market inputs such as discounted cash flows and earnings multiples. A reasonable change in our assumptions would not result in a significant increase (decrease) to our level 3 financial instruments.
(3) Unrealized gains and losses are recorded in OCI and impairment charges are recorded in Other expense in the income statements.
(4) Represents BCE’s obligation to repurchase the BCE Master Trust Fund’s (Master Trust) 9% interest in MLSE at a price not less than an agreed minimum price should the Master Trust exercise its put option. The obligation to repurchase is marked to market each reporting period and the gain or loss is recorded in Other expense in the income statements. The option has been exercisable since 2017.

 

6.6 Credit ratings

Credit ratings generally address the ability of a company to repay principal and pay interest on debt or dividends on issued and outstanding preferred shares.

Our ability to raise financing depends on our ability to access the public equity and debt capital markets as well as the bank credit market. Our ability to access such markets and the cost and amount of funding available partly depend on the quality of our credit ratings at the time capital is raised. Investment-grade credit ratings usually mean that when we borrow money, we qualify for lower interest rates than companies that have ratings lower than investment-grade. A ratings downgrade could result in adverse consequences for our funding capacity or ability to access the capital markets.

The following table provides BCE’s and Bell Canada’s credit ratings, which are considered investment grade, as at March 7, 2019 from DBRS, Moody’s and S&P.


KEY CREDIT RATINGS

 

 

BELL CANADA (1)

MARCH 7, 2019 DBRS   MOODY ’S   S&P  
Commercial paper R-2 (high)   P-2   A-1 (Low) (Canadian scale)  
          A-2 (Global scale)  
Long-term debt BBB (high)   Baa1   BBB+  
Subordinated long-term debt BBB (low)   Baa2   BBB  
 

BCE (1)

  DBRS   MOODY’S   S&P  
Preferred shares Pfd-3     P-2 (Low) (Canadian scale)  
          BBB- (Global scale)  

 

(1) These credit ratings are not recommendations to buy, sell or hold any of the securities referred to above, and they may be revised or withdrawn at any time by the assigning rating organization. Each credit rating should be evaluated independently of any other credit rating.

As of March 7, 2019, BCE and Bell Canada’s credit ratings have stable outlooks from DBRS, Moody’s and S&P.




80

       
 

6

MD&A Financial and capital management

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


6.7 Liquidity

SOURCES OF LIQUIDITY

Our cash and cash equivalents balance at the end of  2018 was $425 million. We expect that this balance, our 2019 estimated cash flows from operations and capital markets financing, including commercial paper, will permit us to meet our cash requirements in 2019 for capital expenditures, post-employment benefit plans funding, dividend payments, the payment of contractual obligations, maturing debt, ongoing operations and other cash requirements.

Should our  2019 cash requirements exceed our cash and cash equivalents balance, cash generated from our operations and capital markets financing, we would expect to cover such a shortfall by drawing under committed credit facilities that are currently in place or through new facilities to the extent available.

In 2019, our cash flows from operations, cash and cash equivalents balance, capital markets financings, securitized trade receivable programs and credit facilities should give us flexibility in carrying out our plans for business growth, including business acquisitions, spectrum auctions and contingencies.

The table below is a summary of our total bank credit facilities at December 31, 2018.

DECEMBER 31, 2018 TOTAL
AVAILABLE
  DRAWN   LETTERS
OF CREDIT
  COMMERCIAL
PAPER
OUTSTANDING
  NET
AVAILABLE
 

Committed credit facilities

                   

Unsecured revolving credit and expansion facilities (1) (2)

4,000       3,156   844  

Other

134     107     27  

Total committed credit facilities

4,134     107   3,156   871  

Total non-committed credit facilities

3,014     1,964     1,050  

Total committed and non-committed credit facilities

7,148     2,071   3,156   1,921  

 

(1) Bell Canada’s $2.5 billion and additional $500 million revolving credit facilities expire in November 2023 and November 2019, respectively, and its $1 billion committed expansion credit facility expires in November 2021. Bell Canada has the option, subject to certain conditions, to convert advances outstanding under the additional $500 million revolving credit facility into a term loan with a maximum one-year term.
(2) As of December 31, 2018, Bell Canada’s outstanding commercial paper included $2,314 million in U.S. dollars ($3,156 million in Canadian dollars). All of Bell Canada’s commercial paper outstanding is included in debt due within one year.

Bell Canada may issue notes under its Canadian and U.S. commercial paper programs up to the maximum aggregate principal amount of $3 billion in either Canadian or U.S. currency provided that at no time shall such maximum amount of notes exceed $4 billion in Canadian currency which equals the aggregate amount available under Bell Canada’s committed supporting revolving and expansion credit facilities as at December 31, 2018. The maximum amounts of the commercial paper programs and the committed credit facilities both reflect an increase of $500 million effective on December 6, 2018 and October 17, 2018, respectively, as compared to December 31, 2017. The total amount of the net committed available revolving and expansion credit facilities may be drawn at any time.

Some of our credit agreements require us to meet specific financial ratios and to offer to repay and cancel the credit agreements upon a change of control of BCE or Bell Canada. In addition, some of our debt agreements require us to offer to repurchase certain series of debt securities upon the occurrence of a change of control event as defined in the relevant debt agreements. We are in compliance with all conditions and restrictions under such agreements.


CASH REQUIREMENTS

CAPITAL EXPENDITURES

In 2019, our planned capital spending will be focused on our strategic imperatives, reflecting an appropriate level of investment in our networks and services.

POST-EMPLOYMENT BENEFIT PLANS FUNDING

Our post-employment benefit plans include DB pension and defined contribution (DC) pension plans, as well as other post-employment benefits (OPEBs) plans. The funding requirements of our post-employment benefit plans, resulting from valuations of our plan assets and liabilities, depend on a number of factors, including actual returns on post-employment benefit plan assets, long-term interest rates, plan demographics, and applicable regulations and actuarial standards. Our expected funding for 2019 is detailed in the following table and is subject to actuarial valuations that will be completed in mid-2019. Actuarial valuations were last performed for our significant post-employment benefit plans as at December 31, 2017.

2019 EXPECTED FUNDING TOTAL  

DB pension plans – service cost

178  

DB pension plans – deficit

2  

DB pension plans

180  

OPEBs

80  

DC pension plans

115  

Total net post-employment benefit plans

375  

 

DIVIDEND PAYMENTS

In 2019, the cash dividends to be paid on BCE’s common shares are expected to be higher than in 2018 as BCE’s annual common share dividend increased by 5.0% to $3.17 per common share from $3.02 per common share effective with the dividend payable on April 15, 2019. This increase is consistent with BCE’s common share dividend payout policy of a target payout between 65% and 75% of free cash flow. BCE’s dividend policy and the declaration of dividends are subject to the discretion of the BCE Board.



 81


       

6

MD&A Financial and capital management  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATIONS

The following table is a summary of our contractual obligations at December 31, 2018 that are due in each of the next five years and thereafter.

 

2019   2020   2021   2022   2023   THERE-
AFTER
  TOTAL  

Recognized financial liabilities

                           

Long-term debt

59   1,453   2,275   1,739   1,622   11,079   18,227  

Notes payable

3,201             3,201  

Minimum future lease payments under finance leases

586   513   344   276   238   667   2,624  

Loans secured by trade receivables

919             919  

Interest payable on long-term debt, notes payable and loan secured by trade receivables

866   751   709   648   581   6,671   10,226  

Net interest receipts on cross currency basis swaps

(6 ) (6 ) (6 ) (6 ) (6 ) (134 ) (164 )

MLSE financial liability

135             135  

Commitments (off-balance sheet)

                           

Operating leases

317   286   244   187   142   436   1,612  

Commitments for property, plant and equipment and intangible assets

1,029   784   623   484   385   698   4,003  

Purchase obligations

618   525   484   434   271   519   2,851  

Total

7,724   4,306   4,673   3,762   3,233   19,936   43,634  

BCE’s significant finance leases are for satellites and office premises. The office leases have an average lease term of 22 years. The leases for satellites, used to provide programming to our Bell TV customers, have a term of 15 years. These satellite leases are non-cancellable. Minimum future lease payments under finance leases include future finance costs of $527 million.

BCE’s significant operating leases are for office premises, cellular tower sites, retail outlets and OOH advertising spaces with lease terms ranging from 1 to 40 years. These leases are non-cancellable. Rental expense relating to operating leases was $352 million in 2018 and $399 million in 2017.

Our commitments for property, plant and equipment and intangible assets include program and feature film rights and investments to expand and update our networks to meet customer demand.

Purchase obligations consist of contractual obligations under service and product contracts for operating expenditures and other purchase obligations.

INDEMNIFICATIONS AND GUARANTEES (OFF-BALANCE SHEET)

As a regular part of our business, we enter into agreements that provide for indemnifications and guarantees to counterparties in transactions involving business dispositions, sales of assets, sales of services, purchases and development of assets, securitization agreements and operating leases. While some of the agreements specify a maximum potential exposure, many do not specify a maximum amount or termination date.

We cannot reasonably estimate the maximum potential amount we could be required to pay counterparties because of the nature of almost all of these indemnifications and guarantees. As a result, we cannot determine how they could affect our future liquidity, capital resources or credit risk profile. We have not made any significant payments under indemnifications or guarantees in the past.


LITIGATION

In the ordinary course of our business, we become involved in various claims and legal proceedings seeking monetary damages and other relief. In particular, because of the nature of our consumer-facing business, we are exposed to class actions pursuant to which substantial monetary damages may be claimed. Due to the inherent risks and uncertainties of the litigation process, we cannot predict the final outcome or timing of claims and legal proceedings. Subject to the foregoing, and based on information currently available and management’s assessment of the merits of the claims and legal proceedings pending at March 7, 2019, management believes that the ultimate resolution of these claims and legal proceedings is unlikely to have a material and negative effect on our financial statements or operations. We believe that we have strong defences and we intend to vigorously defend our positions.

You will find a description of the principal legal proceedings pending at March 7, 2019 in the BCE 2018 AIF.





82

       
 

7

MD&A Selected annual and quarterly information

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


7 Selected annual and quarterly information

 

7.1 Annual financial information

The following table shows selected consolidated financial data of BCE for 2018 and 2017 based on the annual consolidated financial statements, which are prepared in accordance with IFRS as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). We discuss the factors that caused our results to vary over the past two years throughout this MD&A.

Effective January 1, 2018, we applied IFRS 15, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, as described in section 10.1, Our accounting policies, retrospectively to each period in 2017 previously reported. We have also reclassified some amounts from previous periods to make them consistent with the presentation for the current period.

  2018   2017  
CONSOLIDATED INCOME STATEMENTS        

Operating revenues

       

Service

20,441   20,095  

Product

3,027   2,662  

Total operating revenues

23,468   22,757  

Operating costs

(13,933 ) (13,475 )

Adjusted EBITDA

9,535   9,282  

Severance, acquisition and other costs

(136 ) (190 )

Depreciation

(3,145 ) (3,034 )

Amortization

(869 ) (810 )

Finance costs

       

Interest expense

(1,000 ) (955 )

Interest on post-employment benefit obligations

(69 ) (72 )

Other expense

(348 ) (102 )

Income taxes

(995 ) (1,069 )

Net earnings

2,973   3,050  

Net earnings attributable to:

       

Common shareholders

2,785   2,866  

Preferred shareholders

144   128  

Non-controlling interest

44   56  

Net earnings

2,973   3,050  

Net earnings per common share

       

Basic and diluted

3.10   3.20  

RATIOS

       

Adjusted EBITDA margin (%)

40.6 % 40.8 %

Return on equity (%) (1)

17.1 % 18.6 %

 

(1) Net earnings attributable to common shareholders divided by total average equity attributable to BCE shareholders excluding preferred shares.



 83


       

7

MD&A Selected annual and quarterly information  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


  2018   2017  

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF FINANCIAL POSITION

       

Total assets

57,100   55,802  

Cash and cash equivalents

425   625  

Debt due within one year (including notes payable and loans secured by trade receivables)

4,645   5,178  

Long-term debt

19,760   18,215  

Total non-current liabilities

25,982   24,445  

Equity attributable to BCE shareholders

20,363   20,302  

Total equity

20,689   20,625  

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF CASH FLOWS

       

Cash flows from operating activities

7,384   7,358  

Cash flows used in investing activities

(4,386 ) (5,437 )

Capital expenditures

(3,971 ) (4,034 )

Business acquisitions

(395 ) (1,649 )

Disposition of intangibles and other assets

68   323  

Cash flows used in financing activities

(3,198 ) (2,149 )

Issue of common shares

11   117  

Net issuance of debt instruments

160   691  

Cash dividends paid on common shares

(2,679 ) (2,512 )

Cash dividends paid on preferred shares

(149 ) (127 )

Cash dividends paid by subsidiaries to non-controlling interest

(16 ) (34 )

Free cash flow

3,567   3,418  

SHARE INFORMATION

       

Average number of common shares (millions)

898.6   894.3  

Common shares outstanding at end of year (millions)

898.2   901.0  

Market capitalization (1)

48,440   54,402  

Dividends declared per common share (dollars)

3.02   2.87  

Dividends declared on common shares

(2,712 ) (2,564 )

Dividends declared on preferred shares

(144 ) (128 )

Closing market price per common share (dollars)

53.93   60.38  

Total shareholder return

(5.6 %) 8.9 %

RATIOS

       

Capital intensity (%)

16.9 % 17.7 %

Price to earnings ratio (times) (2)

17.40   18.87  

OTHER DATA

       

Number of employees (thousands)

53   52  

 

(1) BCE’s common share price at the end of the year multiplied by the number of common shares outstanding at the end of the year.
(2) BCE’s common share price at the end of the year divided by EPS.



84

       
 

7

MD&A Selected annual and quarterly information

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



The following table shows selected consolidated financial data of BCE for 2016 as previously reported. This information was prepared in accordance with IFRS as issued by the IASB, prior to the adoption of IFRS 15, and is therefore not comparable to our 2018 and 2017 financial information.

 

2016  

CONSOLIDATED INCOME STATEMENTS

   

Operating revenues

   

Service

20,090  

Product

1,629  

Total operating revenues

21,719  

Net earnings

3,087  

Net earnings attributable to common shareholders

2,894  

Net earnings per common share

   

Basic and diluted

3.33  

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF FINANCIAL POSITION

   

Total assets

50,108  

Long-term debt

16,572  

Total non-current liabilities

22,146  

SHARE INFORMATION

   

Dividends declared per common share (dollars)

2.73  

 

 

7.2 Quarterly financial information

The following table shows selected BCE consolidated financial data by quarter for 2018 and 2017. This quarterly information is unaudited but has been prepared on the same basis as the annual consolidated financial statements. We discuss the factors that caused our results to vary over the past eight quarters throughout this MD&A.

 

2018 2017

 

Q4   Q3   Q2   Q1   Q4   Q3   Q2   Q1  

Operating revenues

                               

Service

5,231   5,117   5,129   4,964   5,152   5,054   5,078   4,811  

Product

984   760   657   626   884   643   610   525  

Total operating revenues

6,215   5,877   5,786   5,590   6,036   5,697   5,688   5,336  

Adjusted EBITDA

2,394   2,457   2,430   2,254   2,329   2,405   2,382   2,166  

Severance, acquisition and other costs

(58 ) (54 ) (24 )   (47 ) (23 ) (36 ) (84 )

Depreciation

(799 ) (779 ) (787 ) (780 ) (783 ) (760 ) (767 ) (724 )

Amortization

(216 ) (220 ) (221 ) (212 ) (208 ) (207 ) (210 ) (185 )

Finance costs

                               

Interest expense

(259 ) (255 ) (246 ) (240 ) (241 ) (242 ) (238 ) (234 )

Interest on post-employment benefit obligations

(18 ) (17 ) (17 ) (17 ) (18 ) (18 ) (18 ) (18 )

Other (expense) income

(158 ) (41 ) (88 ) (61 ) (62 ) (56 ) (1 ) 17  

Income taxes

(244 ) (224 ) (292 ) (235 ) (272 ) (249 ) (298 ) (250 )

Net earnings

642   867   755   709   698   850   814   688  

Net earnings attributable to common shareholders

606   814   704   661   656   803   765   642  

Net earnings per common share

                               

Basic and diluted

0.68   0.90   0.79   0.73   0.72   0.90   0.85   0.73  

Average number of common shares outstanding – basic (millions)

898.1   898.0   898.0   900.2   900.6   900.4   900.1   875.7  

OTHER INFORMATION

                               

Cash flows from operating activities

1,788   2,043   2,057   1,496   1,658   2,233   2,154   1,313  

Free cash flow

1,022   1,014   994   537   652   1,183   1,094   489  

Capital expenditures

(974 ) (1,010 ) (1,056 ) (931 ) (1,100 ) (1,040 ) (1,042 ) (852 )

 

 85


       

7

MD&A Selected annual and quarterly information  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


FOURTH QUARTER HIGHLIGHTS

 

OPERATING REVENUES

Q4 2018   Q4 2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Bell Wireless

2,248   2,149   99   4.6 %

Bell Wireline

3,296   3,218   78   2.4 %

Bell Media

850   834   16   1.9 %

Inter-segment eliminations

(179 ) (165 ) (14 ) (8.5 %)

Total BCE operating revenues

6,215   6,036   179   3.0 %

 

ADJUSTED EBITDA Q4 2018   Q4 2017   $ CHANGE   % CHANGE  

Bell Wireless

889   846   43   5.1 %

Bell Wireline

1,329   1,312   17   1.3 %

Bell Media

176   171   5   2.9 %

Total BCE adjusted EBITDA

2,394   2,329   65   2.8 %

BCE operating revenues increased by 3.0% in Q4 2018, compared to last year, driven by growth across all three of our segments. The year-over-year increase reflected both higher service and product revenues of 1.5% and 11.3%, respectively.

BCE net earnings decreased by 8.0% in Q4 2018 compared to Q4 2017, due mainly to higher other expense which included impairment charges of $190 million relating to our Bell Media segment, higher depreciation and amortization expense and higher finance costs, partly offset by higher adjusted EBITDA and lower income taxes.

BCE adjusted EBITDA grew by 2.8% in Q4 2018, compared to Q4 2017, due to year-over-year increases in all three of our segments. BCE adjusted EBITDA margin of 38.5%, decreased marginally compared to last year’s margin of 38.6%, attributable to a greater proportion of low-margin product sales in our revenue base.

Bell Wireless operating revenues increased by 4.6% in Q4  2018, compared to the same period in 2017, driven by both higher service and product revenues. Wireless service revenues increased by 2.2% year over year, due to continued growth in our postpaid subscriber base moderated by lower blended ARPU. The decline in blended ARPU was driven by lower voice and data overages due to increased customer adoption of plans with greater usage thresholds, greater allocation of revenues to product revenues due to a greater proportion of premium smartphone devices in our sales mix combined with higher retail handsets prices, lower ARPU generated from the contract with SSC and the dilutive impact on blended ARPU from the continued ramp-up in prepaid customers from Lucky Mobile. This was moderated by an increase in customers moving to higher-value monthly plans with greater data allotments and the flow-through of 2017 and 2018 pricing changes. Wireless product revenues grew 11.0% year over year, driven by increased sales of premium devices along with higher retail handset prices, partly offset by lower gross activations and upgrade volumes.

Bell Wireless adjusted EBITDA increased 5.1% in Q4 2018, compared to the same period last year, driven by the flow-through of higher revenues, moderated by a 4.3% increase in operating expenses. The increase in operating expenses was primarily due to higher cost of goods sold driven by the sale of more premium devices and higher handset costs as well as increased network operating costs driven by the expansion of network capacity, partly offset by lower marketing expense mainly due to higher advertising spend in Q4 2017, in part relating to the launch of Lucky Mobile. Adjusted EBITDA margin, based on total operating revenues of 39.5% in Q4 2018, was essentially stable compared to the 39.4% achieved in Q4 2017.

Bell Wireline operating revenues increased by 2.4% in Q4  2018, compared to last year, driven by both higher service revenues of 1.5% and product revenues of 12.0%. The growth in service revenues was due to the continued increases in our Internet and IPTV subscribers, the flow-through of 2017 and 2018 residential pricing changes, higher IP connectivity which reflects the contribution from the acquisition of Axia, business solutions services revenue growth, and higher sales of international long distance minutes in our wholesale market. This was offset in part by increased residential customer acquisition, retention and bundle discounts due to aggressive offers from cable competitors, coupled with ongoing erosion in our voice, satellite TV, and legacy data revenues. The year-over-year increase in product revenues reflected greater demand for equipment by large business customers, as well as higher sales of consumer electronics at The Source.

Bell Wireline adjusted EBITDA grew by 1.3% in Q4 2018, over the same period last year, resulting from the flow-through of the revenue growth, partly offset by a 3.2% increase in operating costs driven by increased cost of revenue mainly related to the growth in product, business solutions services and international long distance minutes revenue, moderated by continued effective cost containment including workforce reductions. Adjusted EBITDA margin decreased to 40.3% in Q4 2018 over the 40.8% experienced in Q4 2017, driven by a greater proportion of low-margin product sales in our revenue base.

Bell Media operating revenues increased by 1.9% in Q4 2018, compared to the same period last year, driven by higher advertising revenues due to rate increases for both conventional and specialty TV advertising, improved audience levels in specialty TV, as well as the favourable impact resulting from a strong fall programming schedule in conventional TV. The growth in OOH advertising revenues from digital and transit products also contributed to the increase in advertising revenues, partially offset by continued market softness in radio. Subscriber revenues were essentially stable in Q4 2018 compared to last year, as the decline in linear subscribers was largely offset by higher sports services driven by TSN and RDS direct, continued growth in our direct-to-consumer Crave product and rate increases to certain BDUs.

Bell Media adjusted EBITDA increased by 2.9% in Q4 2018, compared to the same period last year, as the higher operating revenues more than offset a 1.7% increase in operating expenses relating to higher marketing expenses to support the November launch of the all-new Crave, our on-demand video streaming service (which now includes The Movie Network), increased programming and content costs primarily related to sports broadcast rights, higher OOH costs driven by the revenue increase and ongoing content expansion for our Crave products, moderated by savings in TV programming costs from schedule changes.




86

       
 

7

MD&A Selected annual and quarterly information

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report




BCE capital expenditures totaled $974  million in Q4  2018  with a corresponding capital intensity ratio of 15.7%, representing a decline of $126 million and 2.5 pts, respectively, compared to Q4 last year. The lower year-over-year capital investment was driven by reduced spending across all three of our segments. Bell Wireless spending declined by $86 million year over year due to the slower pace of spending compared to last year. The decline in Bell Wireline capital expenditures of $35 million in Q4 2018 was mainly driven by the timing of capital spending which was more weighted to the first half of the year. Bell Media capital expenditures decreased by $5 million in Q4 2018, primarily due to greater investments in 2017 related to the execution of OOH contract wins and upgrades to Bell Media broadcast studios and TV production equipment.

BCE severance, acquisition and other costs of $58 million in Q4 2018 increased by $11 million, compared to Q4 2017, due mainly to higher other costs.

BCE depreciation of $799 million in Q4 2018 increased by $16 million, year over year, mainly due to a higher asset base as we continued to invest in our broadband and wireless networks as well as our IPTV service.

BCE amortization was $216 million in Q4 2018, up from $208 million in Q4 2017, due mainly to a higher asset base.

BCE interest expense was $259 million in Q4 2018, up from $241 million in Q4 2017, mainly as a result of higher average debt levels and higher average interest rates on notes payable under commercial paper programs and loans securitized by trade receivables.

BCE other expense of $158 million in Q4 2018 increased by $96 million, year over year, mainly due to higher impairment charges at our Bell Media segment.

BCE income taxes of $244 million in Q4 2018 were down from $272 million in Q4 2017, mainly as a result of lower taxable income.

BCE net earnings attributable to common shareholders of $606 million in Q4 2018, or $0.68 per share, were lower than the $656 million, or $0.72 per share, reported in Q4 2017. The year-over-year decrease was due mainly to higher other expense which included impairment charges of $190 million relating to our Bell Media segment, higher depreciation and amortization expense and higher finance costs, partly offset by higher adjusted EBITDA and lower income taxes. Adjusted net earnings increased to $794 million, from $736 million in Q4 2017, and adjusted EPS increased to $0.89, from $0.82 in Q4 2017.

BCE cash flows from operating activities was $1,788  million in Q4 2018 compared to $1,658 million in Q4 2017. The increase is mainly attributable to improved working capital, lower income taxes paid and higher adjusted EBITDA, partly offset by a higher voluntary DB pension plan contribution made in 2018.

BCE free cash flow generated in Q4 2018 was $1,022 million, an increase of $370 million compared to Q4 2017. This was due mainly to higher cash flows from operating activities, excluding voluntary DB pension plan contributions, and acquisition and other costs paid, and lower capital expenditures.


SEASONALITY CONSIDERATIONS

Some of our segments’ revenues and expenses vary slightly by season, which may impact quarter-to-quarter operating results.

Bell Wireless operating results are influenced by the timing of new mobile device launches and seasonal promotional periods, such as back-to-school, Black Friday and the Christmas holiday period, as well as the level of overall competitive intensity. As a result of these seasonal effects, subscriber additions and retention costs due to device upgrades related to contract renewals are typically higher in the third and fourth quarters. Accordingly, adjusted EBITDA tends to be lower in the third and fourth quarters, due to the costs associated with higher seasonal loading volumes. With respect to ABPU, historically we have experienced seasonal sequential increases in the second and third quarters, due to higher levels of usage and roaming in the spring and summer months, followed by historical seasonal sequential declines in the fourth and first quarters. However, this seasonal effect on ABPU has moderated, as unlimited voice options and larger usage data plans with higher recurring monthly fees have become more prevalent, resulting in less variability in chargeable data usage.

Bell Wireline revenues tend to be higher in the fourth quarter because of historically higher data and equipment product sales to business customers and higher consumer electronics equipment sales during the Christmas holiday period. However, this may vary from year to year depending on the strength of the economy and the presence of targeted sales initiatives, which can influence customer spending. Home Phone, TV and Internet subscriber activity is subject to modest seasonal fluctuations, attributable largely to residential moves during the summer months and the back-to-school period in the third quarter. Targeted marketing efforts conducted during various times of the year to coincide with special events or broad-based marketing campaigns also may have an impact on overall wireline operating results.

Bell Media revenues and related expenses from TV and radio broadcasting are largely derived from the sale of advertising, the demand for which is affected by prevailing economic conditions, as well as cyclical and seasonal variations. Seasonal variations are driven by the strength of TV ratings, particularly during the fall programming season, major sports league seasons and other special sporting events such as the Olympic Games, NHL playoffs and World Cup soccer, as well as fluctuations in consumer retail activity during the year.



 87


       

8

MD&A Regulatory environment  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


8 Regulatory environment
8.1 Introduction

This section describes certain legislation that governs our business and provides highlights of recent regulatory initiatives and proceedings, government consultations and government positions that affect us, influence our business and may continue to affect our ability to compete in the marketplace. Bell Canada and several of its direct and indirect subsidiaries, including Bell Mobility, Bell ExpressVu Limited Partnership (Bell ExpressVu), Bell Media, NorthernTel, Limited Partnership (NorthernTel), Télébec, Limited Partnership (Télébec) and Northwestel Inc. (Northwestel), are governed by the Telecommunications Act, the Broadcasting Act, the Radiocommunication Act and/or the Bell Canada Act. Our business is affected by regulations, policies and decisions made by various regulatory agencies, including the CRTC, a quasi-judicial agency of the Government of Canada responsible for regulating Canada’s telecommunications and broadcasting industries, and other federal government departments, in particular ISED and the Competition Bureau.

In particular, the CRTC regulates the prices we can charge for retail telecommunications services when it determines there is not enough competition to protect the interests of consumers. The CRTC has determined that competition is sufficient to grant forbearance from retail price regulation under the Telecommunications Act for the vast majority of our retail wireline and wireless telecommunications services. The CRTC can also mandate the provision of access by competitors to our wireline and wireless networks and the rates we can charge them. Notably, it currently mandates wholesale high-speed access for wireline broadband as well as domestic wireless roaming services. Additional mandated services, as well as lower mandated wholesale rates, could limit our flexibility, influence the market structure, undermine our incentives to invest in network improvements and extensions, improve the business positions of our competitors and negatively impact the financial performance of our businesses. Our TV distribution and our TV and radio broadcasting businesses are subject to the Broadcasting Act and are, for the most part, not subject to retail price regulation.

Although most of our retail services are not price-regulated, government agencies and departments such as the CRTC, ISED, Canadian Heritage and the Competition Bureau continue to play a significant role in regulatory matters such as mandatory access to networks, spectrum auctions, the imposition of consumer-related codes of conduct, approval of acquisitions, broadcast licensing and foreign ownership requirements. Adverse decisions by governments or regulatory agencies or increasing regulation could have negative financial, operational, reputational or competitive consequences for our business.


REVIEW OF KEY LEGISLATION

On June 5, 2018, the Minister of ISED and the Minister of Canadian Heritage announced the launch of a review of the Broadcasting Act, the Radiocommunication Act and the Telecommunications Act (the Acts). The legislative review is intended to modernize the Acts to better address new realities impacting the broadcasting and telecommunications industries. The review is being led by a panel of external experts tasked with consulting industry members and Canadian consumers. The panel is to return a report with recommendations for legislative reforms by January 31, 2020. While reforms of these key pieces of legislation could have material impacts for our broadcasting, telecommunications and wireless businesses, it is unclear what recommendations the panel may make, what impacts those recommendations may have, if adopted, and when any adopted reforms would come into force.

8.2 Telecommunications Act

The Telecommunications Act governs telecommunications in Canada. It defines the broad objectives of Canada’s telecommunications policy and provides the Government of Canada with the power to give general direction to the CRTC on any of its policy objectives. It applies to several of the BCE group of companies and partnerships, including Bell Canada, Bell Mobility, NorthernTel, Télébec and Northwestel.

Under the Telecommunications Act, all facilities-based telecommunications service providers in Canada, known as telecommunications common carriers (TCCs), must seek regulatory approval for all telecommunications services, unless the services are exempt or forborne from regulation. The CRTC may exempt an entire class of carriers from regulation under the Telecommunications Act if the exemption meets the objectives of Canada’s telecommunications policy. In addition, a few large TCCs, including those in the BCE group, must also meet certain Canadian ownership requirements. BCE monitors and periodically reports on the level of non-Canadian ownership of its common shares.


CRTC REPORT ON THE SALES PRACTICES OF LARGE TELECOMMUNICATIONS CARRIERS

On June 14, 2018, the Governor in Council issued an Order in Council directing the CRTC to make a report regarding the retail sales practices of Canada’s large telecommunications carriers. In preparing its report, the CRTC investigated whether large service providers are engaging in misleading or aggressive sales tactics, the controls that those carriers have in place to prevent misleading or aggressive sales tactics, existing consumer protections that promote fair treatment of consumers, and the most effective ways to expand consumer protections. The CRTC held hearings in October 2018 on the topic and issued its report on February 20, 2019. The CRTC concluded that misleading or aggressive retail sales practices are present in the telecommunications service provider market and, to some extent, in the television service provider market as a result of its investigation. It suggested a set of best practices for service providers and noted that it will take action where appropriate and conduct further public processes where needed. It is not clear what interventions, if any, the CRTC may undertake and as a result, we are unable to assess what potential impact, if any, the CRTC’s report may have on our business and financial
results.


REVIEW OF BASIC TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICES

On December 21, 2016, the CRTC issued Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2016-496, in which it determined broadband Internet to be a basic service and created a new fund designed to complement government investments in expanding access to broadband Internet across Canada (Broadband Fund). The Broadband Fund will collect and distribute $750 million over a five-year period to support an aspirational





88

       
 

8

MD&A Regulatory environment

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



goal of bringing broadband Internet with speeds of 50 Mbps to 90% of Canadian households. Contributions to the Broadband Fund will be collected from telecommunications service providers, like those of the BCE group, and distributed through a competitive bidding process to support broadband deployment initiatives. The fund is to start at $100 million in its first year and grow by $25 million each year until it caps out at $200 million in the fifth year. While we will be required to contribute to the Broadband Fund based on our percentage of industry revenues for voice, data and Internet services, the extent of the impact of this new fund on our business is not yet known, as funds contributed may be offset by any funds received should we seek and be awarded funds to deploy broadband services as part of the CRTC’s program. The CRTC has launched a proceeding to determine the details of the competitive bidding process and we anticipate that the Broadband Fund will likely be operational in 2020.

On September 27, 2018, the CRTC issued Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2018-377 in which it clarified matters related to the Broadband Fund. Specifically, the CRTC determined that the Broadband Fund would cover four areas: (i) network transport; (ii) fixed broadband Internet access; (iii) mobile wireless; and (iv) broadband in satellite-served communities. The CRTC stated that it would prefer network transport projects with the potential to benefit several communities over individual access projects, and would prefer fixed access projects over mobile wireless projects. Up to 10% of the Broadband Fund will be reserved for satellite-served communities as had been previously determined. The Broadband Fund will be managed by the CRTC with the assistance of the Central Fund Administrator of the National Contribution Fund (which is currently subsidizing voice services and transitioning towards the Broadband Fund). The CRTC will use a comparative approach based on certain criteria much like the Federal Government’s Connect to Innovate fund, although no weightings were provided for each criteria. On February 14, 2019, the CRTC asked for comments on a preliminary application guide for the Broadband Fund. The CRTC will also conduct a mapping exercise to determine which geographic areas are eligible for funding. The CRTC did not provide any guidance on when it would start collecting funds for the Broadband Fund or when it could start issuing requests for bids.

On June 26, 2018, in Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2018-213, the CRTC decided to phase out the local service subsidy over three years, from January  1,  2019 to December  31, 2021, through semi-annual reductions. This subsidy, collected from the industry, is remitted to incumbent telephone providers, such as Bell Canada, to support residential local phone service in high-cost areas. BCE group entities both contribute to and draw from this subsidy fund, with BCE group entities currently in a small net beneficiary position. On the same date, the CRTC launched Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2018-214 to review certain elements of the local service regime, including whether additional pricing flexibility or some form of compensation is required for incumbent telephone providers, given that the local service subsidy will be eliminated. This proceeding will also review the existing forbearance regimes for local residential and business services. The CRTC’s decision may result in greater flexibility to meet our obligation to serve voice customers and more deregulation of voice services, as well as remove the obligation to serve in certain areas such as those that are currently served by mobile wireless competitors. Conversely, it may maintain the obligation to serve while removing subsidies and capping certain retail rates, resulting in the forced provision of voice service at a loss in high-cost serving areas. The materiality of impacts will not be known until the CRTC issues its decision.


PROCEEDINGS REGARDING WHOLESALE DOMESTIC WIRELESS SERVICES

On June 1, 2017, the Federal Cabinet issued an order to the CRTC directing it to reconsider certain determinations made in Telecom Decision CRTC 2017-56 (Decision 2017-56). In Decision 2017-56, the CRTC determined that Bell Mobility, Rogers, and Telus were required to provide “incidental” access to their networks and not “permanent” access as part of the mandated roaming service. In addition, the CRTC determined that the use of generally available public Wi-Fi does not form part of the home network of a non-national wireless service provider (NNWP) for the purpose of establishing what constitutes incidental roaming access. As a result, NNWPs may not rely on the use of public Wi-Fi facilities to be eligible to purchase incidental roaming services. In its order, the Federal Cabinet asked the CRTC to consider whether allowing an end-user’s connectivity to public Wi-Fi to count as connectivity to a NNWP’s home network would make Canadian wireless services more affordable, and whether any affordability gains associated with such a changed rule would outweigh any disincentives for the national carriers to continue to invest in their networks. On March 22, 2018, in Telecom Decision CRTC 2018-97, the CRTC maintained its previous determination that permitting such access would negatively impact investments in wireless networks by wireless carriers and run against the long-standing policy to encourage facilities-based competition.

Instead of mandating access for Wi-Fi-based wireless service providers, the CRTC initiated Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2018-98, in which it directed Bell Mobility, Rogers and Telus to file proposals for affordable data-only plans that they could offer in the market. On December 17, 2018, the CRTC issued Telecom Decision CRTC 2018-475 in which it accepted the proposals by the national carriers and did not impose formal regulation. Instead, the CRTC stated an expectation that the national carriers implement the plans they had committed to and indicated that the CRTC will monitor compliance going forward. We are currently unable to assess the potential impact that Telecom Decision CRTC 2018-475 may have, if any, on our business and financial results.


MANDATED WHOLESALE ACCESS TO FTTP NETWORKS

On July 22, 2015, in Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2015-326, the CRTC mandated the introduction of a new disaggregated wholesale high-speed access service, including over FTTP facilities, which had previously been exempt from mandated aggregated wholesale high-speed access. While this new service is mandated for all major incumbent telephone companies and cable carriers, the first stage of its implementation is to take place only in Ontario and Québec, our two largest markets. This adverse regulatory decision may impact the specific nature, magnitude, location and timing of our future FTTP investment decisions. In particular, the introduction by the CRTC of mandated wholesale services over FTTP undermines the incentives for facilities-based digital infrastructure providers to invest in next-generation wireline networks, particularly in smaller communities and rural areas.

On September  20, 2016, the CRTC issued Telecom Decision CRTC 2016-379 concerning the technical design of our future disaggregated wholesale high-speed access service. On August 29, 2017, in Telecom Order CRTC 2017-312, the CRTC set interim rates for these services. The final rates remain to be determined. The mandating of final rates that are materially different from the rates we proposed could improve the business position of our competitors and further impact our investment strategy.

 89


       

8

MD&A Regulatory environment  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



 
PROPOSED EXPANSION OF AGGREGATED WHOLESALE ACCESS REGIME TO FTTP NETWORKS

On November 7, 2018, the Canadian Network Operators Consortium Inc. (CNOC) (which represents wholesale ISPs) applied to the CRTC to obtain mandated access via aggregated services to FTTP facilities. In addition, CNOC is requesting the introduction of a third wholesale high-speed access service, which would feature some level of aggregation between that of the already well-established mandated aggregated wholesale high-speed access service and the newer disaggregated wholesale high-speed access service referred to under Mandated Wholesale Access to FTTP Networks above. The inclusion of FTTP facilities in the aggregated regime and the introduction of yet another mandated wholesale high-speed service could further undermine the incentives for facilities-based digital infrastructure providers to invest in next-generation wireline networks and improve the business position of our competitors.


REVIEW OF WHOLESALE FTTN HIGH-SPEED ACCESS SERVICE RATES

As part of its ongoing review of wholesale Internet rates, on October 6, 2016 the CRTC significantly reduced, on an interim basis, some of the wholesale rates that Bell Canada and other major providers charge for access by ISPs to FTTN or cable networks, as applicable. Should such substantially lowered wholesale rates remain in place in the long term and, in addition, should the interim rates be made retroactive, the business position of some of our competitors could improve, adversely affecting our financial performance, and our investment strategy could change, especially in relation to investment in next-generation wireline networks, particularly in smaller communities and rural areas.


NATIONAL WIRELESS SERVICES CONSUMER CODE

On June 3, 2013, the CRTC issued Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2013-271, which established the Wireless Code. The Wireless Code applies to all wireless services provided to individual and small business consumers (i.e., businesses that on average spend less than $2,500 per month on telecommunications services) in all provinces and territories.

The Wireless Code regulates certain aspects of the provision of wireless services. Most notably, the Wireless Code prevents wireless service providers from charging an early cancellation fee after a customer has been under contract for 24 months and requires providers to recover any handset subsidies in two years or less. These requirements have effectively removed contracts with terms greater than two years from the marketplace.

On June 15, 2017, the CRTC issued Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2017-200, making targeted changes to the Wireless Code, effective December 1, 2017, and clarifying existing rules. The revisions to the Wireless Code prevent service providers from selling locked devices, increase voice, text and data usage allowances for customers to try out their services during the mandatory 15-day buyer’s trial period for purchased devices, and establish additional controls related to data overage and data roaming charges, among other things.


PROPOSED ORDER REGARDING CRTC POLICY OBJECTIVES

On February 26, 2019, the Governor in Council announced that it will propose to make an order (the Proposed Order) directing the CRTC to implement objectives relating to competition, affordability, consumer interests and innovation in its telecommunications policy objectives. Interested persons may make representations concerning the Proposed Order within 30 days after the date of publication of the notice of the Proposed Order in the Canada Gazette. It is unclear what impact, if any, the Proposed Order and future related processes could have on our business and financial results.


REVIEW OF MOBILE WIRELESS SERVICES

On February 28, 2019, the CRTC launched its planned review of the regulatory framework for mobile wireless services. The purpose of the proceeding is to consider changes to the wireless regulatory framework developed in 2015. The main issues in the CRTC’s consultation include (i) competition in the retail market; (ii) the current wholesale mobile wireless service regulatory framework, with a focus on wholesale MVNO access; and (iii) the future of mobile wireless services in Canada, with a focus on reducing barriers to infrastructure deployment. With respect to MVNOs, the CRTC expressed the preliminary view that it would be appropriate for the national wireless carriers to provide wholesale MVNO access. The CRTC will hold a public hearing in January 2020 and a decision is expected later in 2020. It is unclear what impact, if any, the results of this consultation could have on our business and financial results.


CANADA’S TELECOMMUNICATIONS FOREIGN OWNERSHIP RULES

Under the Telecommunications Act, there are no foreign investment restrictions applicable to TCCs that have less than a 10% share of the total Canadian telecommunications market as measured by annual revenues. However, foreign investment in telecommunications companies can still be refused by the government under the Investment Canada Act. The absence of foreign ownership restrictions on such small or new entrant TCCs could result in more foreign companies entering the Canadian market, including by acquiring spectrum licences or Canadian TCCs.
 

8.3 Broadcasting Act

The Broadcasting Act outlines the broad objectives of Canada’s broadcasting policy and assigns the regulation and supervision of the broadcasting system to the CRTC. Key policy objectives of the Broadcasting Act are to protect and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada and to encourage the development of Canadian expression.

Most broadcasting activities require a programming or broadcasting distribution licence from the CRTC. The CRTC may exempt broadcasting undertakings from complying with certain licensing and regulatory requirements if it is satisfied that non-compliance will not materially affect the implementation of Canadian broadcasting policy. A corporation must also meet certain Canadian ownership and control requirements to obtain a broadcasting or broadcasting distribution licence, and corporations must have the CRTC’s approval before they can transfer effective control of a broadcasting licensee.

Our TV distribution operations and our TV and radio broadcasting operations are subject to the requirements of the Broadcasting Act, the policies and decisions of the CRTC and their respective broadcasting




90

       
 

8

MD&A Regulatory environment

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



licences. Any changes in the Broadcasting Act, amendments to regulations or the adoption of new ones, or amendments to licences, could negatively affect our competitive position or the cost of providing services.
CHANGES TO SIMULTANEOUS SUBSTITUTION

In Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2015-25, the CRTC announced its intention to eliminate simultaneous substitution for the Super Bowl starting in 2017. This decision was implemented in Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2016-334 (the Policy) and Broadcasting Order CRTC 2016-335 (the Order).

Bell Canada and Bell Media appealed the application of the Order to the Federal Court of Appeal, as did the NFL. Bell Canada and Bell Media argued that the CRTC does not have jurisdiction under the Broadcasting Act to ban simultaneous substitution for the Super Bowl and that doing so constitutes unauthorized retrospective regulation and interference with Bell Media’s vested economic rights. The appeal was denied on December 18, 2017. On May 10, 2018, the Supreme Court of Canada granted leave for Bell Canada, Bell Media and the NFL to appeal the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal. The appeals were heard in December 2018 and the decision remains pending.

The CRTC’s decision to eliminate simultaneous substitution for the Super Bowl has had an adverse impact on Bell Media’s conventional TV business and financial results, as a result of a reduction in viewership and advertising revenues. Such impacts will continue throughout the duration of our contract term with the NFL unless the CRTC’s Order is rescinded.

Pursuant to the recently negotiated United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the government of Canada is required to rescind the Policy and the Order. This would allow Bell Media to implement simultaneous substitution for the Super Bowl. As it is uncertain when the Policy and the Order will be rescinded, Bell Media applied to the CRTC for it to temporarily suspend the operation of the Order to allow the simultaneous substitution of U.S. commercials with Canadian commercials for the 2019 Super Bowl. On November 8, 2018, the CRTC denied this request, given that USMCA had not yet been formally ratified and also given the appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. It remains uncertain when the Order will be rescinded.


WHOLESALE CODE

In Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2015-438, the CRTC announced it would implement a new Wholesale Code to govern the commercial arrangements between BDUs, programming services and digital media

services, including imposing additional restrictions on the sale of TV channels at wholesale and the carriage of TV channels by BDUs pursuant to Broadcasting Order CRTC 2015-439. Bell Canada and Bell Media appealed Broadcasting Order CRTC 2015-439 to the Federal Court of Appeal, arguing that the CRTC’s implementation of the Wholesale Code conflicts with the Copyright Act and is outside the CRTC’s jurisdiction under the Broadcasting Act. On October 1, 2018, the Federal Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and set aside Broadcasting Order CRTC 2015-439. The impact of the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision on our business is not known at this time.


TELEVISION SERVICE PROVIDER CODE

On January 7, 2016, the CRTC issued Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2016-1, which established the Television Service Provider Code (the TV Code). The TV Code came into force on September 1, 2017 and requires all regulated TV service providers, as well as exempt TV service providers that are affiliated with a regulated service provider, to observe certain rules concerning their consumer agreements for TV services. The TV Code does not apply to other exempt providers, such as OTT providers not affiliated with a regulated service provider.

The TV Code specifically imposes requirements relating to the clarity of offers, the content of contracts, trial periods for persons with disabilities, how consumers can change their programming options, and when services may be disconnected, among other things.

As part of Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2016-1, the CRTC also expanded the mandate of the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services, now the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services (CCTS), to include the administration of the TV Code and to enable the CCTS to accept consumer complaints about TV services.

8.4 Radiocommunication Act

ISED regulates the use of radio spectrum under the Radiocommunication Act to ensure that radiocommunication in Canada is developed and operated efficiently. All companies wishing to operate a wireless system in Canada must hold a spectrum licence to do so. Under the Radiocommunication Regulations, companies that are eligible for radio licences, such as Bell Canada and Bell Mobility, must meet the same ownership requirements that apply to companies under the Telecommunications Act.


RENEWAL OF AWS-1 AND PCS G BLOCK AND I BLOCK SPECTRUM LICENCES

On January 8, 2019, ISED approved the renewal of our AWS-1 and PCS G Block spectrum licences for a 20-year term, setting population coverage targets that apply within the first eight years and a second set of population coverage targets to be met by the end of the 20-year licence term. With respect to I Block licences, the current ecosystem does not support the viable deployment of this spectrum – an issue faced by all existing I Block licensees. As a result, I Block deployment targets are not able to be met and our three I Block licences were not renewed. Given that these licences have never been deployed, the impact is not material.


CONSULTATION ON 3500 MHZ SPECTRUM

On June 6, 2018, ISED issued the Consultation on Revisions to the 3500 MHz Band to Accommodate Flexible Use and Preliminary Consultation on Changes to the 3800 MHz Band. ISED is seeking comments on issues such as allowing flexible use spectrum licences in the 3450–3650 MHz band, the amount of spectrum existing licence holders need to return if they decide to convert their existing licences to flexible use licences, the transition plan for existing licence holders, and the extent to which the 3700–4200 MHz band can accommodate coexisting services (e.g., fixed-satellite service with mobile and/or fixed wireless access). ISED will launch a consultation on the technical, policy and licensing framework for flexible use licences in the 3500 MHz band after releasing its decision regarding the issues raised in this consultation. It is unclear what impact the results of this consultation and future related processes could have on our business and financial results.





 91


       

8

MD&A Regulatory environment  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



 
600 MHZ SPECTRUM AUCTION

On March 28, 2018, ISED released the Technical, Policy and Licensing Framework for Spectrum in the 600 MHz Band. In this framework, ISED confirmed that it will auction 70 MHz of spectrum in the 600 MHz band, 30 MHz of which will be set aside for set-aside-eligible entities. Set-aside-eligible entities must: (i) be registered with the CRTC as facilities-based providers; (ii) not be national incumbent service providers; and (iii) be actively providing commercial telecommunications services to the general public in the relevant service area of interest as of the application date to participate in the auction. The set-aside spectrum can only be transferred to set-aside-eligible entities for the first five years. All auctioned licences will have a 20-year term and be subject to certain deployment requirements, which require licensees to provide network coverage to a certain percentage of the population in each licence area at five, 10 and 20 years following licence issuance. While the adoption of set-aside provisions limits the spectrum that Bell Mobility can bid on, no further restrictions were adopted that would limit Bell Mobility’s participation in the auction process. Bidding in the auction is scheduled to begin March 12, 2019.

CONSULTATION ON RELEASING MILLIMETRE WAVE SPECTRUM TO SUPPORT 5G

On June 5, 2017, ISED launched a consultation entitled Consultation on Releasing Millimetre Wave Spectrum to Support 5G (Millimetre Wave Consultation). The consultation addresses the use of three key frequency bands, namely 28 GHz, 37-40 GHz and 64-71 GHz for possible 5G deployment. ISED has sought comments on a number of key technical and licensing policy considerations for the use of the above-noted spectrum.

On June 6, 2018, ISED launched a consultation entitled Addendum to the Consultation on Releasing Millimetre Wave Spectrum to Support 5G. Through this addendum consultation, ISED is seeking stakeholder feedback on releasing additional spectrum in the 26 GHz band for flexible use to support 5G networks and systems, in addition to the frequency bands currently under consultation through the Millimetre Wave Consultation. As 5G is expected to be the next major advancement in mobile telecommunications standards, access to the millimetre wave spectrum will be important in order to facilitate the development and adoption of 5G technology. It is unclear what, if any, impact the results of this consultation could have on our business.

8.5 Bell Canada Act

Among other things, the Bell Canada Act limits how Bell Canada voting shares and Bell Canada facilities may be sold or transferred. Specifically, under the Bell Canada Act, the CRTC must approve any sale or other disposal of Bell Canada voting shares that are held by BCE, unless the sale or disposal would result in BCE retaining at least 80% of all of the issued and outstanding voting shares of Bell Canada. Except in the ordinary course of business, the sale or other disposal of facilities integral to Bell Canada’s telecommunications activities must also receive CRTC approval.

8.6 Other key legislation

PERSONAL INFORMATION PROTECTION AND ELECTRONIC DOCUMENTS ACT

On November 1, 2018 the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act was amended to require organizations to report to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada breaches of security safeguards involving personal information that pose a real risk of significant harm to individuals; to notify affected individuals about those breaches; and to keep records of all breaches (whether there is a real risk of significant harm or not). Failure to comply with these notification requirements, or to record security breaches, may result in a fine of up to $100,000 per occurrence.

In addition, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) recently issued two sets of guidelines, namely the Guidance on Inappropriate Data Practices: Interpretation and Application of Subsection 5(3) and the Guidelines for Obtaining Meaningful Consent, which could have significant impacts on how personal information may be collected, used and disclosed for analytics and marketing purposes. In effect since July 1, 2018, the Guidance on Inappropriate Data Practices establishes six areas in which the collection, use or disclosure of personal information would effectively be prohibited, introducing limits on profiling that could be considered discriminatory, as well as limits on the surveillance of employee devices. The new Guidelines for Obtaining Meaningful Consent went into effect on January 1, 2019 and provide guidance regarding the meaningful obtention of consent, specify that meaningful consent must be obtained to the collection of data that is not required to provide services, and require the identification of the risk of harm related to information disclosure.


COPYRIGHT ACT REVIEW

On December 13, 2017, the federal government passed a motion in Parliament to formally launch a review of the Copyright Act. This review is mandated by the Copyright Act itself, which requires that the legislation be examined every five years. The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, working in collaboration with the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, is leading the process, which began in February 2018. At this time, the impact of any potential amendments on our business and financial results is unknown.


CANADA’S ANTI-SPAM LEGISLATION

Federal legislation referred to as Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) came into force on July 1, 2014. Pursuant to CASL, commercial electronic messages can be sent only if the recipient has provided prior consent and the message complies with certain formalities, including the ability to unsubscribe easily from subsequent messages. As of January 15, 2015, CASL also requires that an organization have prior informed consent before downloading software to an end-user’s computer. Penalties for non-compliance include administrative monetary penalties of up to $10 million.

While CASL is also intended to provide individual Canadians with a private right of action to commence proceedings for statutory damages in relation to instances of non-compliance, these provisions were deferred indefinitely from coming into force by the Federal Cabinet on June 2, 2017.




92

       
 

9

MD&A Business risks

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


9 Business risks

A risk is the possibility that an event might happen in the future that could have a negative effect on our financial position, financial performance, cash flows, business or reputation. The actual effect of any event could be materially different from what we currently anticipate. The risks described in this MD&A are not the only ones that could affect us. Additional risks and uncertainties not currently known to us or that we currently deem to be immaterial may also materially and adversely affect our financial position, financial performance, cash flows, business or reputation.

This section describes the principal business risks that could have a material adverse effect on our financial position, financial performance, cash flows, business or reputation, and cause actual results or events to differ materially from our expectations expressed in, or implied by, our forward-looking statements. As indicated in the table below, certain of these principal business risks have already been discussed in other sections of this MD&A, and we refer the reader to those sections for a discussion of such risks. All of the risk discussions set out in the sections referred to in the table below are incorporated by reference in this section 9.

RISKS DISCUSSED IN OTHER
SECTIONS OF THIS MD&A

SECTION REFERENCES

Competitive environment

Section 3.3, Principal business risks
Section 5, Business segment analysis (Competitive landscape and industry trends section for each segment)

Regulatory environment

Section 3.3, Principal business risks
Section 8, Regulatory environment

Security management

Section 3.3, Principal business risks

Risks specifically relating to our Bell Wireless,
Bell Wireline and Bell Media segments

Section 5, Business segment analysis (Principal business risks section for each segment)

The other principal business risks that could also have a material adverse effect on our financial position, financial performance, cash flows, business or reputation are discussed below.


TECHNOLOGY/INFRASTRUCTURE TRANSFORMATION

The failure to optimize network and IT deployment and upgrade timelines, accurately assess the potential of new technologies, or invest and evolve in the appropriate direction, could have an adverse impact on our business and financial results

Globalization, increased competition and ongoing technological advances are driving customer expectations of faster market responses, enhanced user experiences and cost-effective delivery. Meeting these expectations requires the deployment of new service and product technologies that are network-neutral and based on a more collaborative and integrated development environment. The availability of improved networks and software technologies provides the foundation for better and faster connections, which have in turn led to a significant growth in IoT applications. Change can be difficult and may present unforeseen obstacles that might impact successful execution, and this transition is made more challenging by the complexity of our multi-product environment, combined with the complexity of our network and IT structures. In addition, new technologies may quickly become obsolete or their launch may be delayed. The failure to optimize network and IT deployment and upgrade timelines, in light of customer demand and competitor activities, to accurately assess the potential of new technologies, or to invest and evolve in the appropriate direction in an environment of changing business models, could have an adverse impact on our business and financial results.

In particular, our network and IT evolution activities seek to leverage new as well as evolving and developing technologies, including network functions virtualization, software-defined networks and cloud technologies, and to transform our network and systems to achieve our objectives of becoming more agile in our service delivery and operations as well as providing self-serve and instant-on capabilities for our customers, ensuring best quality and customer experience, and developing a new network infrastructure that enables a competitive cost structure and rapidly growing capacity. These evolution activities require an operational and cultural shift. Alignment across technology, product development and operations is increasingly critical to ensure appropriate trade-offs and optimization of capital allocation.

If this cannot be achieved in accordance with our deployment schedules while maintaining network availability and performance through the migration process, we may lose customers as a result of poor service performance, which could adversely affect our ability to achieve our operational and financial objectives. Failure to leverage IP across all facets of our network and product and service portfolio could inhibit a fully customer-centric approach, limiting or preventing comprehensive self-serve convenience, real-time provisioning, cost savings and flexibility in delivery and consumption, leading to negative business and financial outcomes.

Parallel to our focus on next-generation investment, adverse regulatory decisions may impact the specific nature, magnitude, location and timing of investment decisions. In particular, the introduction by the CRTC of mandated wholesale services over FTTP or wireless networks will undermine the incentives for facilities-based digital infrastructure providers to invest in next-generation wireline and wireless networks, particularly in smaller communities and rural areas. Failure to continue investment in next-generation capabilities in a disciplined and strategic manner could limit our ability to compete effectively and achieve desired business and financial results.




 93


       

9

MD&A Business risks  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



Other examples of risks affecting achievement of our desired technology/infrastructure transformation include:
  • Network construction and deployment on municipal or private property requires the issuance of municipal or property owner consents, respectively, for the installation of network equipment, which could increase the cost of, and cause delays in, FTTP and wireless rollouts
  • The successful deployment of WTTP service could be impacted by various factors, including environmental factors (such as trees), affecting coverage and costs
  • We must be able to purchase high-quality network equipment and services from third-party suppliers on a timely basis and at a reasonable cost (refer to Dependence on third-party suppliers in this section 9 for more details)
  • The increasing dependence on apps for content delivery, sales, customer engagement and service experience drives the need for new and scarce capabilities (sourced internally or externally), which may not be available, as well as the need for associated operating processes integrated into ongoing operations
  • New products, services or apps could reduce demand for our existing, more profitable service offerings or cause prices for those services to decline, and could result in shorter estimated useful lives for existing technologies, which could increase depreciation and amortization expense
  • As content consumption habits evolve and viewing options increase, our ability to develop alternative delivery vehicles in order to seek to compete in new markets and increase customer engagement and revenue streams may be hindered by the significant software development and network investment required
  • Successfully managing the development and deployment on a timely basis of relevant product solutions to match the speed of adoption of IoT in the areas of retail, business and government could be challenging
  • We must be able to leverage new opportunities, in order to meet our business objectives, such as those introduced by “big data” which is subject to many challenges including evolving customer perceptions as well as legal and regulatory developments. If we cannot build market-leading competencies in this field across sales, service and operational platforms that respect societal values and legal and regulatory requirements, we may miss important opportunities to grow our business through enhanced market intelligence and a more proactive customer service model.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Driving a positive customer experience in all aspects of our engagement with customers is important to avoid brand degradation and other adverse impacts on our business and financial performance

As the bar continues to be raised based on customers’ evolving expectations of service and value, failure to get ahead of such expectations and build a more robust and consistent service experience could hinder product and service differentiation and customer loyalty. The foundation of effective customer service stems from our ability to deliver high-quality, consistent and simple solutions to customers in an expeditious manner and on mutually agreeable terms. However, complexity in our operations resulting from multiple technology platforms, billing systems, sales channels, marketing databases and a myriad of rate plans, promotions and product offerings, in the context of a large customer base and workforce that continuously requires to be trained, monitored and replaced, may limit our ability to respond quickly to market changes and reduce costs, and may lead to customer confusion or billing, service or other errors, which could adversely affect customer satisfaction, acquisition and retention. These challenges may be exacerbated as services become more complex. Media attention to customer complaints could also erode our brand and reputation and adversely affect customer acquisition and retention.

With the proliferation of connectivity services, apps and devices, customers are accustomed to doing things when, how and where they want through websites, self-serve options, web chat, call centres, Facebook, Twitter and other social media forums. Failure to embrace these new media in a positive way, incorporate them into multiple elements of our service delivery and ensure that we understand their potential impact on customer perceptions could adversely affect our reputation and brand value.


OPERATIONAL PERFORMANCE

Our networks, IT systems and data centre assets are the foundation of high-quality consistent services, which are critical to meeting service expectations

Our ability to provide consistent wireless, wireline and media services to customers in a complex and constantly changing operating environment is crucial for sustained success. In particular, network capacity demands for TV and other bandwidth-intensive applications on our Internet and wireless networks have been growing at unprecedented rates. Unexpected capacity pressures on our networks may negatively affect our network performance and our ability to provide services. Issues relating to network availability, speed, consistency and traffic management on our more current as well as our aging networks could have an adverse impact on our business and financial performance.

In addition, we currently use a very large number of interconnected operational and business support systems for provisioning, networking, distribution, broadcast management, billing and accounting, which may restrain our operational efficiency. If we fail to implement or maintain highly effective IT systems supported by an effective governance and operating framework, this may lead to inconsistent performance and dissatisfied customers, which over time could result in higher churn.

Further examples of risks to operational performance that could impact our reputation, business operations and financial performance include the following:

  • We may need to incur significant capital expenditures beyond those already anticipated by our capital intensity target in order to provide additional capacity and reduce network congestion on our wireline


94

       
 

9

MD&A Business risks

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



and wireless networks, and we may not be able to generate sufficient cash flows or raise the capital we need to fund such capital expenditures, which may result in service degradation
  • Corporate restructurings, system replacements and upgrades, process redesigns, staff reductions and the integration of business acquisitions may not deliver the benefits contemplated and could adversely impact our ongoing operations
  • If we fail to streamline our significant IT legacy system portfolio and proactively improve operating performance, this could adversely affect our business and financial outcomes
  • We may experience more service interruptions or outages due to aging legacy infrastructure. In some cases, vendor support is no longer available or legacy vendor operations have ceased.
  • There may be a lack of competent and cost-effective resources to perform the life-cycle management and upgrades necessary to maintain the operational status of legacy networks

Our operations and business continuity depend on how well we protect, test, maintain and replace our networks, IT systems, equipment and other facilities

Our operations, service performance, reputation and business continuity depend on how well we and our contracted product and service providers protect our networks and IT systems, as well as other infrastructure and facilities, from events such as information security attacks, unauthorized access or entry, fire, natural disaster (including, without limitation, seismic and severe weather-related events such as ice, snow and wind storms, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis), power loss, building cooling loss, acts of war or terrorism, sabotage, vandalism, actions of neighbours and other events. Establishing response strategies and business continuity protocols to maintain service consistency if any disruptive event materializes is critical to the achievement of effective customer service. Any of the above-mentioned events, as well as the failure to complete planned and sufficient testing, maintenance or replacement of our networks, equipment and other facilities, which is, amongst others, dependent on our ability to purchase equipment and services from third-party suppliers, could disrupt our operations (including through disruptions such as network failures, billing errors or delays in customer service), require significant resources and result in significant remediation costs, which in turn could have an adverse effect on our business and financial performance, or impair our ability to keep existing subscribers or attract new ones.

Satellites used to provide our satellite TV services are subject to significant operational risks that could have an adverse effect on our business and financial performance

Pursuant to a set of commercial arrangements between Bell ExpressVu and Telesat Canada (Telesat), we currently have satellites under contract with Telesat. Telesat operates or directs the operation of these satellites, which utilize highly complex technology and operate in the harsh environment of space and are therefore subject to significant operational risks while in orbit. These risks include in-orbit equipment failures, malfunctions and other problems, commonly referred to as anomalies, that could reduce the commercial usefulness of a satellite used to provide our satellite TV services. Acts of war or terrorism, magnetic, electrostatic or solar storms, or space debris or meteoroids could also damage such satellites. Any loss, failure, manufacturing defect, damage or destruction of these satellites, of our terrestrial broadcasting infrastructure or of Telesat’s tracking, telemetry and control facilities to operate the satellites could have an adverse effect on our business and financial performance and could result in customers terminating their subscriptions to our satellite TV service.


DEPENDENCE ON THIRD-PARTY SUPPLIERS

We depend on third-party suppliers, outsourcers and consultants, some of which are critical, to provide an uninterrupted supply of the products and services we need to operate our business, deploy new network and other technologies and offer new products and services, as well as comply with various obligations

We depend on key third-party suppliers and outsourcers, over which we have no operational or financial control, for products and services, some of which are critical to our operations. If there are gaps in our vendor selection, governance and oversight processes established to seek to ensure full risk transparency at point of purchase and throughout the relationship, including any contract renegotiations, there is the potential for a breakdown in supply, which could impact our ability to make sales, service customers and achieve our business and financial objectives. In addition, any such gaps could result in suboptimal management of our vendor base, increased costs and missed opportunities. Some of our third-party suppliers and outsourcers are located in foreign countries, which increases the potential for a breakdown in supply due to the risks of operating in foreign jurisdictions with different laws, geo-political environments and cultures, as well as the potential for localized natural disasters.

We may have to select different third-party suppliers of equipment and other products and services, as well as outsourcers, in order to meet evolving internal company policies and guidelines as well as regulatory requirements. Should we decide, or be required by a governmental authority or otherwise, to terminate our relationship with an existing supplier or outsourcer, this would decrease the number of available suppliers or outsourcers and could result in increased costs, transitional, support, service, quality or continuity issues; delay our ability to deploy new network and other technologies and offer new products and services; and adversely affect our business and financial results.

The outsourcing of services generally involves transfer of risk, and we must take appropriate steps to ensure that the outsourcers’ approach to risk management is aligned with our own standards in order to maintain continuity of supply and brand strength. Further, as cloud-based supplier models continue to evolve, our procurement and vendor management practices must also continue to evolve to fully address associated risk exposures.

In addition, certain company initiatives rely heavily on professional consulting services provided by third parties, and a failure of such third parties may not be reasonably evident until their work is delivered or delayed. Depending on the size, complexity and level of third-party dependence, remedial strategies may be difficult to implement in respect of any professional consulting services provided by third parties that are not performed in a proper or timely fashion. Any such difficulty when implementing remedial strategies could result in an adverse effect on our ability to comply with various obligations, including applicable legal and accounting requirements.



 95


       

9

MD&A Business risks  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



Other examples of risks associated with our dependence on third-party suppliers include the following:
  • Demand for products and services available from only a limited number of suppliers, some of which dominate their global market, may lead to decreased availability, increased costs or delays in the delivery of such products and services, since suppliers may choose to favour global competitors that are larger than we are and, accordingly, purchase a larger volume of products and services. In addition, production issues affecting any such suppliers, or other suppliers, could result in decreased quantities or a total lack of supply of products or services. Any of these events could adversely impact our ability to meet customer commitments and demand.
  • Cloud-based solutions may increase the risk of security and data leakage exposure if security control protocols affecting our suppliers are bypassed
  • Failure to maintain strong discipline around vendor administration (especially around initial account setup) may mask potential financial or operational risks and complicate future problem resolutions
  • If products and services important to our operations have manufacturing defects or do not comply with applicable government regulations and standards (including product safety practices), our ability to sell products and provide services on a timely basis may be negatively impacted. We work with our suppliers to identify serious product defects (including safety incidents) and develop appropriate remedial strategies. Remedial strategies may include a recall of products. To the extent that a supplier does not actively participate in, and/or bear primary financial responsibility for, a recall of its products, our ability to perform such recall programs at a reasonable cost and/or in a timely fashion may be negatively impacted. Any of the events referred to above could have an adverse effect on our operations and financial results.
  • Products (including software) and services supplied to us may contain security issues including, but not limited to, latent security issues that would not be apparent upon an inspection. When any such security issue is discovered, we seek to identify and develop remedial strategies both internally and with our suppliers. Should we or a supplier fail to correct a security issue in a timely fashion, there could be an adverse effect on our business and financial results.
  • Temporary or permanent operational failures or service interruptions of the networks of other telecommunications carriers and suppliers on which we rely to deliver services could adversely affect our ability to provide services using such carriers’ and suppliers’ networks and could, consequently, have an adverse effect on our business and financial results
  • BCE depends on call centre and technical support services provided by a number of external suppliers and outsourcers, some of which are located in foreign countries. These vendors have access to customer and internal BCE information necessary for the support services that they provide. Information access and service delivery issues that are not managed appropriately may have an adverse impact on our reputation, the quality and speed of services provided to customers, and our ability to address technical issues.

PEOPLE

Our employees and contractors are key resources and there is a broad and complex range of risks that must be managed effectively to drive a winning corporate culture and outstanding performance

Our business depends on the efforts, engagement and expertise of our management and non-management employees and contractors, who must be able to operate efficiently and safely based on the tasks they are completing and the environment in which they are functioning. Failure to achieve these basic expectations could adversely affect our organizational culture, reputation, business and financial results, as well as our ability to attract high-performing team members. Competition for highly skilled team members is intense, which makes essential the development of a comprehensive human resources strategy to adequately compete for talent and to identify and secure high-performing candidates for a broad range of job functions, roles and responsibilities. Failure to appropriately train, motivate, remunerate or deploy employees on initiatives that further our strategic imperatives, or to efficiently replace retiring employees, could have an adverse impact on our ability to attract and retain talent and drive performance across the organization. The positive engagement of members of our team represented by unions is contingent on negotiating collective agreements that deliver competitive labour conditions and uninterrupted service, both of which are critical to achieving our business objectives. In addition, if the skill sets, diversity and size of the workforce do not match the operational requirements of the business and foster a winning culture, we will likely not be able to sustain our performance.

Other examples of people-related risks include the following:

  • The increasing technical and operational complexity of our businesses and the high demand in the market for skilled resources in strategic areas create a challenging environment for hiring, retaining and developing such skilled resources
  • Failure to establish a complete and effective succession plan, including preparation of internal talent and identification of potential external candidates, where relevant, for key roles, could impair our business until qualified replacements are found
  • Approximately 44% of our employees were represented by unions and were covered by collective bargaining agreements at December 31, 2018. Renegotiating collective bargaining agreements could result in higher labour costs, and during the renegotiation process there may be project delays and work disruptions, including work stoppages or work slowdowns, which could adversely affect service to our customers and, in turn, our customer relationships and financial performance.
  • Ensuring the safety of our workforce operating in different environments, including manholes, telephone poles, cell towers, vehicles, foreign news bureaus and war zones, requires focus, effective processes and flexibility to avoid injury, service interruption, fines and reputational impact
  • Deterioration in employee morale and engagement resulting from staff reductions, ongoing cost reductions or reorganizations could adversely affect our business and financial results



96

       
 

9

MD&A Business risks

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

If we are unable to raise the capital we need or generate sufficient cash flows from operating activities, we may need to limit our capital expenditures or our investments in new businesses, or try to raise capital by disposing of assets

Our ability to meet our cash requirements, fund capital expenditures and provide for planned growth depends on having access to adequate sources of capital and on our ability to generate cash flows from operating activities, which is subject to various risks, including those described in this MD&A.

Our ability to raise financing depends on our ability to access the public equity, debt capital and money markets, as well as the bank credit market. Our ability to access such markets and the cost and amount of funding available depend largely on prevailing market conditions and the outlook for our business and credit ratings at the time capital is raised.

Risk factors such as capital market disruptions, political, economic and financial market instability in Canada or abroad, government policies, central bank monetary policies, changes to bank capitalization or other regulations, reduced bank lending in general or fewer banks as a result of reduced activity or consolidation, could reduce capital available or increase the cost of such capital. In addition, an increased level of debt borrowings could result in lower credit ratings, increased borrowing costs and a reduction in the amount of funding available to us, including through equity offerings. Business acquisitions could also adversely affect our outlook and credit ratings and have similar adverse consequences. In addition, participants in the public capital and bank credit markets have internal policies limiting their ability to invest in, or extend credit to, any single entity or entity group or a particular industry.

Our bank credit facilities, including credit facilities supporting our commercial paper program, are provided by various financial institutions. While it is our intention to renew certain of such credit facilities from time to time, there are no assurances that these facilities will be renewed on favourable terms or in similar amounts.

Differences between BCE’s actual or anticipated financial results and the published expectations of financial analysts, as well as events affecting our business or operating environment, may contribute to volatility in BCE’s securities. A major decline in the capital markets in general, or an adjustment in the market price or trading volumes of BCE’s securities, may negatively affect our ability to raise debt or equity capital, retain senior executives and other key employees, make strategic acquisitions or enter into joint ventures.

If we cannot access the capital we need or generate cash flows to implement our business plan or meet our financial obligations on acceptable terms, we may have to limit our ongoing capital expenditures and our investment in new businesses or try to raise additional capital by selling or otherwise disposing of assets. Any of these could have an adverse effect on our cash flows from operating activities and on our growth prospects.

We cannot guarantee that BCE’s dividend payout policy will be maintained or that dividends will be increased or declared

From time to time, the BCE Board reviews the adequacy of BCE’s dividend payout policy with the objective of allowing sufficient financial flexibility to continue investing in our business while growing returns to shareholders. Under the current dividend payout policy, increases in the common share dividend are directly linked to growth in BCE’s free cash flow. BCE’s dividend payout policy, increases in the common share dividend and the declaration of dividends on any of BCE’s outstanding shares are subject to the discretion of the BCE Board and, consequently, there can be no guarantee that BCE’s dividend payout policy will be maintained, that the dividend on common shares will be increased or that dividends will be declared. BCE’s dividend payout policy, dividend increases and the declaration of dividends by the BCE Board are ultimately dependent on BCE’s operations and financial results which are, in turn, subject to various assumptions and risks, including those set out in this MD&A.

We are exposed to various credit, liquidity and market risks

Our exposure to credit, liquidity and market risks, including equity price, interest rate and currency fluctuations, is discussed in section 6.5, Financial risk management of this MD&A and in Note 26 to BCE’s 2018 consolidated financial statements.

Our failure to identify and manage our exposure to changes in interest rates, foreign exchange rates (especially the weakening of the Canadian dollar), BCE’s share price and other market conditions could lead to missed opportunities, reduced profit margins, cash flow shortages, inability to complete planned capital expenditures, reputational damage, equity and debt securities devaluations, and challenges in raising capital on market-competitive terms.

The economic environment, pension rules or ineffective governance could have an adverse effect on our pension obligations, liquidity and financial performance, and we may be required to increase contributions to our post-employment benefit plans in the future

With a large pension plan membership and DB pension plans that are subject to the pressures of the global economic environment and changing regulatory and reporting requirements, our pension obligations are exposed to potential volatility. Failure to recognize and manage economic exposure and pension rule changes, or to ensure that effective governance is in place for management and funding of pension plan assets and obligations, could have an adverse impact on our liquidity and financial performance.

The funding requirements of our post-employment benefit plans, based on valuations of plan assets and obligations, depend on a number of factors, including actual returns on post-employment benefit plan assets, long-term interest rates, plan demographics, and applicable regulations and actuarial standards. Changes in these factors could cause future contributions to significantly differ from our current estimates and could require us to increase contributions to our post-employment benefit plans in the future and, therefore, could have a negative effect on our liquidity and financial performance.

There is no assurance that the assets of our post-employment benefit plans will earn their assumed rate of return. A substantial portion of our post-employment benefit plans’ assets is invested in public equity and debt securities. As a result, the ability of our post-employment benefit plans’ assets to earn the rate of return that we have assumed depends significantly on the performance of capital markets. Market conditions also impact the discount rate used to calculate our pension plan solvency obligations and could therefore also significantly affect our cash funding requirements.

Our expected funding for 2019 is in accordance with the latest post-employment benefit plan valuations as of December 31, 2017, filed in June 2018, and takes into account voluntary contributions of $240 million in 2018.




 97


       

9

MD&A Business risks  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



Income and commodity tax amounts may materially differ from the expected amounts

Our complex business operations are subject to various tax laws. The adoption of new tax laws, or regulations or rules thereunder, or changes thereto or in the interpretation thereof, could result in higher tax rates, new taxes or other adverse tax implications. In addition, while we believe that we have adequately provided for all income and commodity taxes based on all of the information that is currently available, the calculation of income taxes and the applicability of commodity taxes in many cases require significant judgment in interpreting tax rules and regulations. Our tax filings are subject to government audits that could result in material changes to the amount of current and deferred income tax assets and liabilities and other liabilities and could, in certain circumstances, result in an assessment of interest and penalties.

The failure to reduce costs as well as unexpected increases in costs could adversely affect our ability to achieve our strategic imperatives and financial guidance

Our objectives for targeted cost reductions continue to be aggressive but there is no assurance that we will be successful in reducing costs, especially since incremental cost savings are more difficult to achieve on an ongoing basis. Our cost reduction objectives require aggressive negotiations with our suppliers and there can be no assurance that such negotiations will be successful or that replacement products or services provided will not lead to operational issues.

Examples of risks to our ability to reduce costs or of potential cost increases include:

  • Achieving timely cost reductions while moving to an IP-based network is dependent on disciplined network decommissioning, which can be delayed by customer contractual commitments, regulatory considerations and other unforeseen obstacles
  • Failure to contain growing operational costs related to network sites, footprint expansion, spectrum licences and content and equipment acquisition could have a negative effect on our financial performance
  • Fluctuations in energy prices are partly influenced by government policies to address climate change which, combined with growing data demand that increases our energy requirements, could increase our energy costs beyond our current expectations
  • Failure to successfully deliver on our contractual commitments, whether due to security events, operational challenges or other reasons, may result in financial penalties and loss of revenues

The failure to evolve practices to effectively monitor and control fraudulent activities could result in financial loss and brand degradation

As a public company with a range of desirable and valuable products and services and a large number of employees, BCE requires a disciplined program covering governance, exposure identification and assessment, prevention, detection and reporting that considers corruption, misappropriation of assets and intentional manipulation of financial statements by employees and/or external parties. Fraud events can result in financial loss and brand degradation.

Specific examples relevant to us include:

  • Subscription fraud on accounts established with a false identity or paid with a stolen credit card
  • Network usage fraud such as call/sell operations using our wireline or wireless networks
  • Copyright theft and other forms of unauthorized use that undermine the exclusivity of Bell Media’s content offerings, which could potentially divert users to unlicensed or otherwise illegitimate platforms, thus impacting our ability to derive distribution and advertising revenues
  • TV distributors, including Bell Canada and Bell ExpressVu, are subject to ongoing efforts to steal their services through compromise or circumvention of signal security systems, causing revenue loss

LITIGATION AND LEGAL OBLIGATIONS

Legal proceedings, changes in applicable laws and the failure to proactively address our legal and regulatory obligations could have an adverse effect on our business and financial performance

We become involved in various claims and legal proceedings as part of our business. Plaintiffs are able to launch and obtain certification of class actions on behalf of a large group of people with increasing ease, and securities laws facilitate the introduction of class action lawsuits by secondary market investors against public companies for alleged misrepresentations in public disclosure documents and oral statements. Changes in laws or regulations, or in how they are interpreted, and the adoption of new laws or regulations, as well as pending or future litigation, including an increase in certified class actions which, by their nature, could result in sizeable damage awards and costs relating to litigation, could have an adverse effect on our business and financial performance.

Examples of legal and regulatory obligations that we must comply with include those resulting from:

  • As discussed in more detail in section 8, Regulatory environment, decisions, policies and other initiatives of the CRTC, ISED, the Competition Bureau and other governmental agencies, as well as laws of a regulatory nature
  • Consumer protection and privacy legislation
  • Tax legislation
  • Corporate and securities legislation
  • IFRS requirements
  • Environmental protection and health and safety laws
  • Payment card industry standards for protection against customer credit card infractions

The failure to comply with any of the above or other legal or regulatory obligations could expose us to litigation, including pursuant to class actions, and significant fines and penalties, as well as result in reputational harm.

For a description of the principal legal proceedings involving us, please see the section entitled Legal proceedings contained in the BCE 2018 AIF.

Finally, the failure of our employees, suppliers or other business partners to comply with applicable legal and ethical standards including, without limitation, anti-bribery laws, as well as our policies and contractual obligations, could also expose us to litigation and significant fines and penalties, and result in reputational harm or being disqualified from bidding on contracts.



98

       
 

9

MD&A Business risks

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS

Health concerns about radiofrequency emissions from wireless communication devices and equipment, as well as epidemics and other health risks, could have an adverse effect on our business

Many studies have been performed or are ongoing to assess whether wireless phones, networks and towers pose a potential health risk. While some studies suggest links to certain conditions, others conclude there is no established causation between mobile phone usage and adverse health effects. In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from wireless phones as possibly carcinogenic to humans, but also indicated that chance, bias or confounding could not be ruled out with reasonable confidence. The IARC also called for additional research into long-term heavy use of mobile phones.

ISED is responsible for approving radiofrequency equipment and performing compliance assessments and has chosen Health Canada’s Safety Code 6, which sets the limits for safe exposure to radiofrequency emissions at home or at work, as its exposure standard. This code also outlines safety requirements for the installation and operation of devices that emit radiofrequency fields such as mobile phones, Wi-Fi technologies and base station antennas. ISED has made compliance to Safety Code 6 mandatory for all proponents and operators of radio installations.

Our business is heavily dependent on radiofrequency technologies, which could present significant challenges to our business and financial performance, such as the following:

  • We face current and potential lawsuits relating to alleged adverse health effects on customers, as well as relating to our marketing and disclosure practices in connection therewith, and the likely outcome of such lawsuits is unpredictable and may change over time
  • Changes in scientific evidence and/or public perceptions could lead to additional government regulations and costs for retrofitting infrastructure and handsets to achieve compliance
  • Public concerns could result in a slower deployment of, or in our inability to deploy, infrastructure necessary to maintain and/or expand our wireless network as required by market evolution

In addition, epidemics, pandemics and other health risks could occur, which could adversely affect our ability to maintain operational networks and provide services to our customers.

Any of these events could have an adverse effect on our business and financial performance.

Climate change and other environmental concerns could have an adverse effect on our business

Global climate change could exacerbate certain of the threats facing our business, including the frequency and severity of weather-related events referred to in Operational performance – Our operations and business continuity depend on how well we protect, test, maintain and replace our networks, IT systems, equipment and other facilities in this section 9. Several areas of our operations further raise environmental considerations, such as fuel storage, greenhouse gas emissions, disposal of hazardous residual materials, and recovery and recycling of end-of-life electronic products we sell or lease. Failure to recognize and adequately respond to changing governmental and public expectations on environmental matters could result in fines, missed opportunities, additional regulatory scrutiny or harm our brand and reputation.



 99


       

10

MD&A Financial measures, accounting policies and controls  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


10 Financial measures, accounting policies and controls

 

10.1 Our accounting policies

This section discusses key estimates and assumptions that management has made and how they affect the amounts reported in the financial statements and notes. It also describes key changes in accounting standards and our accounting policies, and how they affect our financial statements.

We have prepared our consolidated financial statements using IFRS. Other significant accounting policies, not involving the same level of measurement uncertainty as those discussed in this section, are nevertheless important to an understanding of our financial statements. See Note 2, Significant accounting policies, in BCE’s 2018 consolidated financial statements for more information about the accounting principles we used to prepare our consolidated financial statements.


CRITICAL ACCOUNTING ESTIMATES AND KEY JUDGMENTS

When preparing financial statements, management makes estimates and judgments relating to:

  • reported amounts of revenues and expenses
  • reported amounts of assets and liabilities
  • disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities

We base our estimates on a number of factors, including historical experience, current events and actions that the company may undertake in the future, and other assumptions that we believe are reasonable under the circumstances. By their nature, these estimates and judgments are subject to measurement uncertainty and actual results could differ.

We consider the estimates and judgments described in this section to be an important part of understanding our financial statements because they require management to make assumptions about matters that were highly uncertain at the time the estimates and judgments were made, and changes to these estimates and judgments could have a material impact on our financial statements and our segments.

Our senior management has reviewed the development and selection of the critical accounting estimates and judgments described in this section with the Audit Committee of the BCE Board.

Any sensitivity analysis included in this section should be used with caution as the changes are hypothetical and the impact of changes in each key assumption may not be linear.

Our more significant estimates and judgments are described below.

ESTIMATES

USEFUL LIVES OF PROPERTY, PLANT AND EQUIPMENT AND FINITE-LIFE INTANGIBLE ASSETS

We review our estimates of the useful lives of property, plant and equipment and finite-life intangible assets on an annual basis and adjust depreciation or amortization on a prospective basis, as required.

Property, plant and equipment represent a significant proportion of our total assets. Changes in technology or our intended use of these assets, as well as changes in business prospects or economic and industry factors, may cause the estimated useful lives of these assets to change.

The estimated useful lives of property, plant and equipment and finite-life intangible assets are determined by internal asset life studies, which take into account actual and expected future usage, physical wear and tear, replacement history and assumptions about technology evolution. When factors indicate that assets’ useful lives are different from the prior assessment, we depreciate or amortize the remaining carrying value prospectively over the adjusted estimated useful lives.

POST-EMPLOYMENT BENEFIT PLANS

The amounts reported in the financial statements relating to DB pension plans and OPEBs are determined using actuarial calculations that are based on several assumptions.

Our actuaries perform a valuation at least every three years to determine the actuarial present value of the accrued DB pension plan and OPEB obligations. The actuarial valuation uses management’s assumptions for, among other things, the discount rate, life expectancy, the rate of compensation increase, trends in healthcare costs and expected average remaining years of service of employees.

While we believe that these assumptions are reasonable, differences in actual results or changes in assumptions could materially affect post-employment benefit obligations and future net post-employment benefit plans cost.

We account for differences between actual and expected results in benefit obligations and plan performance in OCI, which are then recognized immediately in the deficit.

The most significant assumptions used to calculate the net post-employment benefit plans cost are the discount rate and life expectancy.

A discount rate is used to determine the present value of the future cash flows that we expect will be needed to settle post-employment benefit obligations.

The discount rate is based on the yield on long-term, high-quality corporate fixed income investments, with maturities matching the estimated cash flows of the post-employment benefit plans. Life expectancy is based on publicly available Canadian mortality tables and is adjusted for the company’s specific experience.

A lower discount rate and a higher life expectancy result in a higher net post-employment benefit obligation and a higher current service cost.



100

       
 

10

MD&A Financial measures, accounting policies and controls

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report



SENSITIVITY ANALYSIS

The following table shows a sensitivity analysis of key assumptions used to measure the net post-employment benefit obligations and the net post-employment benefit plans cost for our DB pension plans and OPEB plans.

                              IMPACT ON NET POST-EMPLOYMENT BENEFIT PLANS COST FOR 2018 – INCREASE/(DECREASE)             IMPACT ON POST-EMPLOYMENT BENEFIT OBLIGATIONS AT DECEMBER 31, 2018 – INCREASE/(DECREASE)  
        CHANGE IN ASSUMPTION         INCREASE IN ASSUMPTION         DECREASE IN ASSUMPTION         INCREASE IN ASSUMPTION         DECREASE IN ASSUMPTION    
Discount rate   0.5%
  (77 )   65     (1,605 )   1,716  
Life expectancy at age 65   1 year     35     (34 )   796     (771 )

 

REVENUE FROM CONTRACTS WITH CUSTOMERS

We are required to make estimates that affect the amount of revenue from contracts with customers, including estimating the stand-alone selling prices of products and services.

For bundled arrangements, we account for individual products and services when they are separately identifiable and the customer can benefit from the product or service on its own or with other readily available resources. The total arrangement consideration is allocated to each product or service included in the contract with the customer based on its stand-alone selling price. We generally determine stand-alone selling prices based on the observable prices at which we sell products separately without a service contract and prices for non-bundled service offers with the same range of services, adjusted for market conditions and other factors, as appropriate. When similar products and services are not sold separately, we use the expected cost plus margin approach to determine stand-alone selling prices. Products and services purchased by a customer in excess of those included in the bundled arrangement are accounted for separately.

IMPAIRMENT OF NON-FINANCIAL ASSETS

Goodwill and indefinite-life intangible assets are tested for impairment annually or when there is an indication that the asset may be impaired. Property, plant and equipment and finite-life intangible assets are tested for impairment if events or changes in circumstances, assessed at each reporting period, indicate that their carrying amount may not be recoverable. For the purpose of impairment testing, assets other than goodwill are grouped at the lowest level for which there are separately identifiable cash inflows.

Impairment losses are recognized and measured as the excess of the carrying value of the assets over their recoverable amount. An asset’s recoverable amount is the higher of its fair value less costs of disposal and its value in use. Previously recognized impairment losses, other than those attributable to goodwill, are reviewed for possible reversal at each reporting date and, if the asset’s recoverable amount has increased, all or a portion of the impairment is reversed.

We make a number of estimates when calculating recoverable amounts using discounted future cash flows or other valuation methods to test for impairment. These estimates include the assumed growth rates for future cash flows, the number of years used in the cash flow model, and the discount rate. When impairment charges occur they are recorded in Other expense.

Impairment charges in  2018 included $145 million allocated to indefinite-life intangible assets, and $14 million allocated to finite-life intangible assets. These impairment charges primarily relate to our French TV channels within our Bell Media segment. These impairments were the result of revenue and profitability declines from lower audience levels and subscriber erosion. The charges were determined by comparing the carrying value of the CGUs to their fair value less costs of disposal. We estimated the fair value of the CGUs using both discounted cash flows and market-based valuation models, which include five-year cash flow projections derived from business plans reviewed by senior management for the period of January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2023, using a discount rate of 8.0% to 8.5% and a perpetuity growth rate of nil, as well as market multiple data from public companies and market transactions. The carrying value of these CGUs was $515 million at December 31, 2018. In the previous year’s impairment analysis, the company’s French Pay and French Specialty TV channels were tested for recoverability separately. In 2018, the CGUs were grouped to form one French CGU which reflects the evolution of the cash flows from our content strategies as well as the CRTC beginning to regulate Canadian broadcasters under a group licence approach based on language. Additionally, in 2018, we recorded an indefinite-life intangible asset impairment charge of $31 million within our Bell Media segment as a result of a strategic decision to retire a brand.

In 2017, we recorded impairment charges of $82 million, of which $70  million was allocated to indefinite-life intangible assets, and $12 million to finite-life intangible assets. The impairment charges relate to our music TV channels and two small market radio station CGUs within our Bell Media segment. These impairments were the result of revenue and profitability declines from lower audience levels. The charges were determined by comparing the carrying value of the CGUs to their fair value less costs of disposal. We estimated the fair value of the CGUs using both discounted cash flows and market-based valuation models, which include five-year cash flow projections derived from business plans reviewed by senior management for the period of January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2022, using a discount rate of 8.5% and a perpetuity growth rate of nil, as well as market multiple data from public companies and market transactions. The carrying value of these CGUs was $67 million at December 31, 2017.

GOODWILL IMPAIRMENT TESTING

We perform an annual test for goodwill impairment in the fourth quarter for each of our CGUs or groups of CGUs to which goodwill is allocated, and whenever there is an indication that goodwill might be impaired.

A CGU is the smallest identifiable group of assets that generates cash inflows that are independent of the cash inflows from other assets or groups of assets.




 101


       

10

MD&A Financial measures, accounting policies and controls  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


We identify any potential impairment by comparing the carrying value of a CGU or group of CGUs to its recoverable amount. The recoverable amount of a CGU or group of CGUs is the higher of its fair value less costs of disposal and its value in use. Both fair value less costs of disposal and value in use are based on estimates of discounted future cash flows or other valuation methods. Cash flows are projected based on past experience, actual operating results and business plans. When the recoverable amount of a CGU or group of CGUs is less than its carrying value, the recoverable amount is determined for its identifiable assets and liabilities. The excess of the recoverable amount of the CGU or group of CGUs over the total of the amounts assigned to its assets and liabilities is the recoverable amount of goodwill.

An impairment charge is recognized in Other expense in the income statements for any excess of the carrying value of goodwill over its recoverable amount. For purposes of impairment testing of goodwill, our CGUs or groups of CGUs correspond to our reporting segments as disclosed in Note 4, Segmented information, in BCE’s 2018 consolidated financial statements.

Any significant change in each of the estimates used could have a material impact on the calculation of the recoverable amount and resulting impairment charge. As a result, we are unable to reasonably quantify the changes in our overall financial performance if we had used different assumptions.

We cannot predict whether an event that triggers impairment will occur, when it will occur or how it will affect the asset values we have reported.

We believe that any reasonable possible change in the key assumptions on which the estimate of recoverable amounts of the Bell Wireless or Bell Wireline groups of CGUs is based would not cause their carrying amounts to exceed their recoverable amounts.

For the Bell Media group of CGUs, a decrease of (0.6%) in the perpetuity growth rate or an increase of 0.4% in the discount rate would have resulted in its recoverable amount being equal to its carrying value.

There were no goodwill impairment charges in 2018 or 2017.

DEFERRED TAXES

Deferred tax assets and liabilities are calculated at the tax rates that are expected to apply when the asset or liability is recovered or settled. Both our current and deferred tax assets and liabilities are calculated using tax rates that have been enacted or substantively enacted at the reporting date.

Deferred taxes are provided on temporary differences arising from investments in subsidiaries, joint arrangements and associates, except where we control the timing of the reversal of the temporary difference and it is probable that the temporary difference will not reverse in the foreseeable future.

The amounts of deferred tax assets and liabilities are estimated with consideration given to the timing, sources and amounts of future taxable income.

FAIR VALUE OF FINANCIAL INSTRUMENTS

Certain financial instruments, such as investments in equity securities, derivative financial instruments and certain elements of borrowings, are carried in the statements of financial position at fair value, with changes in fair value reflected in the income statements and the statements of comprehensive income. Fair values are estimated by reference to published price quotations or by using other valuation techniques that may include inputs that are not based on observable market data, such as discounted cash flows and earnings multiples.

CONTINGENCIES

In the ordinary course of business, we become involved in various claims and legal proceedings seeking monetary damages and other relief. Pending claims and legal proceedings represent a potential cost to our business. We estimate the amount of a loss by analyzing potential outcomes and assuming various litigation and settlement strategies, based on information that is available at the time.

If the final resolution of a legal or regulatory matter results in a judgment against us or requires us to pay a large settlement, it could have a material adverse effect on our consolidated financial statements in the period in which the judgment or settlement occurs.

ONEROUS CONTRACTS

A provision for onerous contracts is recognized when the unavoidable costs of meeting our obligations under a contract exceed the expected benefits to be received under the contract. The provision is measured at the present value of the lower of the expected cost of terminating the contract and the expected net cost of completing the contract.

JUDGMENTS

POST-EMPLOYMENT BENEFIT PLANS

The determination of the discount rate used to value our post-employment benefit obligations requires judgment. The rate is set by reference to market yields of high-quality corporate fixed income investments at the beginning of each fiscal year. Significant judgment is required when setting the criteria for fixed income investments to be included in the population from which the yield curve is derived. The most significant criteria considered for the selection of investments include the size of the issue and credit quality, along with the identification of outliers, which are excluded.

INCOME TAXES

The calculation of income taxes requires judgment in interpreting tax rules and regulations. There are transactions and calculations for which the ultimate tax determination is uncertain. Our tax filings are also subject to audits, the outcome of which could change the amount of current and deferred tax assets and liabilities. Management believes that it has sufficient amounts accrued for outstanding tax matters based on information that currently is available.

Management judgment is used to determine the amounts of deferred tax assets and liabilities to be recognized. In particular, judgment is required when assessing the timing of the reversal of temporary differences to which future income tax rates are applied.

REVENUE FROM CONTRACTS WITH CUSTOMERS

The identification of performance obligations within a contract and the timing of satisfaction of performance obligations under long-term contracts requires judgment. For bundled arrangements, we account for individual products and services when they are separately identifiable and the customer can benefit from the product or service on its own or with other readily available resources. When our right to consideration from a customer corresponds directly with the value to the customer of the products and services transferred to date, we recognize revenue in the amount to which we have a right to invoice. We recognize product revenues from the sale of wireless handsets and devices and wireline equipment when a customer takes possession of the product. We recognize service revenues over time, as the services are provided. Revenues on certain long-term contracts are recognized using output methods based on products delivered, performance completed to date, time elapsed or milestones met.




102

       
 

10

MD&A Financial measures, accounting policies and controls

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report




Additionally, the determination of costs to obtain a contract, including the identification of incremental costs, also requires judgment. Incremental costs of obtaining a contract with a customer, principally comprised of sales commissions and prepaid contract fulfillment costs, are included in contract costs in the statements of financial position, except where the amortization period is one year or less, in which case costs of obtaining a contract are immediately expensed. Capitalized costs are amortized on a systematic basis that is consistent with the period and pattern of transfer to the customer of the related products or services.

CGUs

The determination of CGUs or groups of CGUs for the purpose of impairment testing requires judgment.

CONTINGENCIES

The determination of whether a loss is probable from claims and legal proceedings and whether an outflow of resources is likely requires judgment.

We accrue a potential loss if we believe a loss is probable and an outflow of resources is likely and can be reasonably estimated, based on information that is available at the time. Any accrual would be charged to earnings and included in Trade payables and other liabilities or Other non-current liabilities. Any payment as a result of a judgment or cash settlement would be deducted from cash from operating activities. We estimate the amount of a loss by analyzing potential outcomes and assuming various litigation and settlement strategies.


ADOPTION OF NEW OR AMENDED ACCOUNTING STANDARDS

As required, effective January 1, 2018, we adopted the following new or amended accounting standards.

STANDARD DESCRIPTION IMPACT

IFRS 15 – Revenue from Contracts with Customers

Establishes principles to record revenues from contracts for the sale of goods or services, unless the contracts are in the scope of IAS 17 – Leases or other IFRSs. Under IFRS 15, revenue is recognized at an amount that reflects the expected consideration receivable in exchange for transferring goods or services to a customer, applying the following five steps:

1. Identify the contract with a customer
2. Identify the performance obligations in the contract
3. Determine the transaction price
4. Allocate the transaction price to the performance obligations in the contract
5. Recognize revenue when (or as) the entity satisfies a performance obligation

The new standard also provides guidance relating to principal versus agent relationships, licences of intellectual property, contract costs and the measurement and recognition of gains and losses on the sale of certain non-financial assets such as property and equipment. Additional disclosures are also required under the new standard.

We applied IFRS 15 retrospectively to each prior period presented. The impacts of adopting IFRS 15 on our income statement and statement of cash flows for the year ended December 31, 2017 along with our statements of financial position as at January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017 are provided in the section below, Adoption of IFRS 15.

IFRS 15 principally affects the timing of revenue recognition and how we classify revenues between product and service in our Bell Wireless segment. IFRS 15 also affects how we account for costs to obtain a contract.

  • Under multiple-element arrangements, revenue allocated to a satisfied performance obligation is no longer limited to the amount that is not contingent upon the satisfaction of additional performance obligations. Although the total revenue recognized during the term of a contract is largely unaffected, revenue recognition may be accelerated and reflected ahead of the associated cash inflows. This results in the recognition of a contract asset on the balance sheet, corresponding to the amount of revenue recognized and not yet billed to a customer. The contract asset is realized over the term of the customer contract.
  • As revenues allocated to a satisfied performance obligation are no longer limited to the non-contingent amount, a greater proportion of the total revenue recognized during the term of certain customer contracts may be attributed to a delivered product, resulting in a corresponding decrease in service revenue
  • Sales commissions and any other incremental costs of obtaining a contract with a customer are recognized on the statement of financial position and amortized on a systematic basis that is consistent with the period and pattern of transfer to the customer of the related products or services, except as noted below

Under IFRS 15, we applied the following practical expedients:

  • Completed contracts that begin and end within the same annual reporting period and those completed before January 1, 2017 are not restated
  • Contracts modified prior to January 1, 2017 are not restated. The aggregate effect of these modifications is reflected when identifying the satisfied and unsatisfied performance obligations, determining the transaction price and allocating the transaction price to the satisfied and unsatisfied performance obligations.
  • When our right to consideration from a customer corresponds directly with the value to the customer of the products and services transferred to date, we recognize revenue in the amount to which we have a right to invoice. For such contracts and for performance obligations that are part of a contract that has an original expected duration of one year or less, the transaction price amount allocated to the remaining performance obligations and an explanation of when we expect to recognize that amount as revenue are not disclosed.
  • Costs of obtaining a contract that would be amortized within one year or less are immediately expensed



 103


       

10

MD&A Financial measures, accounting policies and controls  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


 


STANDARD DESCRIPTION IMPACT
IFRS 9 –
Financial Instruments

Sets out the requirements for recognizing and measuring financial assets, financial liabilities and some contracts to buy and sell non-financial items. The new standard establishes a single classification and measurement approach for financial assets that reflects the business model in which they are managed and their cash flow characteristics. It also provides guidance on an entity’s own credit risk relating to financial liabilities and modifies the hedge accounting model to better link the economics of risk management with its accounting treatment. Additional disclosures are also required under the new standard.


We applied IFRS 9, Financial Instruments (as revised in July 2014) and the related consequential amendments to other IFRSs retrospectively, except for the changes to hedge accounting described below which are applied prospectively. In accordance with the transition requirements, comparative periods have not been restated. The adoption of IFRS 9 did not have a significant impact on the carrying amounts of our financial instruments as at January 1, 2018. As a result of the adoption of IFRS 9, our January 1, 2018 deficit increased by $4 million.

IFRS 9 replaces the classification and measurement models in IAS 39, Financial Instruments: Recognition and Measurement, with a single model under which financial assets are classified and measured at amortized cost, FVOCI or fair value through profit or loss (FVTPL). This classification is based on the business model in which a financial asset is managed and its contractual cash flow characteristics and eliminates the IAS 39 categories of held-to-maturity, loans and receivables and available-for-sale. The adoption of IFRS 9 did not, however, change the measurement bases of our financial assets.

  • Cash and cash equivalents and trade and other receivables continue to be measured at amortized cost under IFRS 9
  • Derivatives measured at FVTPL under IAS 39 continue to be measured as such under IFRS 9; derivatives that qualify for hedge accounting continue to be measured at fair value under IFRS 9, with changes in fair value recognized in Other comprehensive income (loss) 
  • Portfolio investments in equity securities measured at FVOCI under IAS 39 continue to be measured as such under IFRS 9

The impairment of financial assets under IFRS 9 is based on an ECL model, as opposed to the incurred loss model in IAS 39. IFRS 9 applies to financial assets measured at amortized cost and contract assets and requires that we consider factors that include historical, current and forward-looking information when measuring the ECL. We use the simplified approach for measuring losses based on the lifetime ECL for trade receivables and contract assets. Amounts considered uncollectible are written off and recognized in Operating costs in the income statement.

We have adopted the general hedge accounting model in IFRS 9 which requires that we ensure hedge accounting relationships are consistent with our risk management objectives and strategies. We also apply a more qualitative and forward-looking approach in assessing hedge effectiveness as a retrospective assessment is no longer required.

  • Under IFRS 9, amounts related to cash flow hedges of anticipated purchases of non-financial assets settled during the period are reclassified from Accumulated other comprehensive (loss) income to the initial cost of the non-financial asset when it is recognized. Under IAS 39, such amounts were reclassified from Other comprehensive income (loss). Amounts related to cash flow hedges of other anticipated purchases continue to be reclassified from Other comprehensive income (loss) to net earnings under IFRS 9.

Amendments to IFRS 2 –Share-based Payment

Clarifies the classification and measurement of cash-settled share-based payment transactions that include a performance condition, share-based payment transactions with a net settlement feature for withholding tax obligations, and modifications of a share-based payment transaction from cash-settled to equity-settled.

The amendments to IFRS 2 did not have a significant impact on our financial statements.






104

       
 

10

MD&A Financial measures, accounting policies and controls

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


ADOPTION OF IFRS 15

As a result of adopting IFRS 15, we have changed the comparative figures for the year ended December 31, 2017 and the opening statement of financial position as at January 1, 2017. The impacts of adopting IFRS 15 on our previously reported 2017 results are provided below.

CONSOLIDATED INCOME STATEMENTS

The table below shows the impacts of adopting IFRS 15 on our previously reported 2017 consolidated income statements.

          YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2017       

(IN MILLIONS OF CANADIAN DOLLARS, EXCEPT SHARE AMOUNTS)

  2017 AS PREVIOUSLY REPORTED       IFRS 15 IMPACTS     2017
UPON ADOPTION OF IFRS 15
 

Operating revenues

  22,719     38     22,757  

Operating costs

  (13,541 )   66     (13,475 )

Severance, acquisition and other costs

  (190 )       (190 )

Depreciation

  (3,037 )   3     (3,034 )

Amortization

  (813 )   3     (810 )

Finance costs

                 

Interest expense

  (955 )       (955 )

Interest on post-employment benefit obligations

  (72 )       (72 )

Other expense

  (102 )       (102 )

Income taxes

  (1,039 )   (30 )   (1,069 )

Net earnings

  2,970     80     3,050  

Net earnings attributable to:

                 

Common shareholders

  2,786     80     2,866  

Preferred shareholders

  128         128  

Non-controlling interest

  56         56  

Net earnings

  2,970     80     3,050  

Net earnings per common share – basic

  3.12     0.08     3.20  

Net earnings per common share – diluted

  3.11     0.09     3.20  

Average number of common shares outstanding – basic (millions)

  894.3         894.3  

 





 105


       

10

MD&A Financial measures, accounting policies and controls  

 

BCE Inc. 2018 Annual Report


CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF FINANCIAL POSITION

The table below shows the impacts of adopting IFRS 15 on our previously reported 2017 consolidated statement of financial position.

FOR THE YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31      2017 AS PREVIOUSLY REPORTED         

  IFRS 15 IMPACTS

           

    RECLASSIFICATIONS(1)

       2017 UPON ADOPTION OF IFRS 15   

Cash

  442            442 

Cash equivalents

  183            183 

Trade and other receivables

  3,135    9    (15)  3,129 

Inventory

  380            380 

Contract assets

      923    (91)  832 

Contract costs

      206    144    350 

Prepaid expenses

  375        (158)  217 

Other current assets

  124        (2)  122 

Total current assets

  4,639    1,138    (122)  5,655 

Contract assets

      400    31    431 

Contract costs

      162    124    286 

Property, plant and equipment

  24,033    (4)      24,029 

Intangible assets

  13,305        (47)