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Rogers celebrates turnaround

Increased efforts, high-speed internet access boost biz

TORONTO — It was kudos and back-patting all around at Rogers Communications’ annual meeting Wednesday in Toronto.

“What a difference a year makes,” wingy and flamboyant founder Ted Rogers told the crowd, referring to the company’s turnaround efforts. He pointed to an increased customer base for subscriber cable, cellular and high-speed Internet access, improved first- quarter results and the fact that 1998 was the first year in this decade that the company hasn’t raised any public debt.

Other execs addressed specific efforts by the company’s various divisions.

  • Despite a rocky start, the MeTV tier of specialty channels reached the company’s target of 50% penetration by the year’s end.

  • The company’s high-speed Internet access service, Rogers@Home, which currently boasts 76,000 customers, is shooting for 150,000 by the end of the fiscal year.

  • Rogers Video signed revenue- sharing agreements with three major U.S. studios.

Rogers is now offering the most thorough collection of service bundling available in Canada, and Rogers Cablesystems is preparing for a digital rollout.

Each of Rogers’ businesses is viable on a stand alone basis, said Tony Viner, Rogers’ newly appointed president and CEO of Rogers Media.

Ted Rogers said his goal is to make the company, which has rarely been in the black, investment grade by the time he retires on Dec. 31, 2003. Various members of the Rogers family own 30% of the company’s equity.

Rogers announced its financial results for the first quarter of 1999 ended March 31 on Tuesday. The company reported a net income of C$46.9 million ($31.5 million) or 15¢ a share, a great improvement over the loss of $12.7 million or 10¢ a share reported for the same period last year.