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Canadian Satellite Radio shares perk up on subscriber data

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Canadian Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. continues to aim for one million subscribers by 2010 after ``what can only be described as an incredible year'' since it launched the XM Canada service, CEO and majority stockholder John Bitove said Thursday.

CSR shares, after a long slide, perked up on the news that the company had 120,000 subscribers at the end of its financial year on Aug. 31, handily topping its publicly stated first-year target of 75,000.

``We are dominating our share of Canadian new-car sales now and in years to come, and XM is quickly finding its way into restaurants, shopping malls and other users across Canada,'' Bitove told a quarterly conference call.

CSR stock was up 75 cents or 9.6 per cent to $8.55 as the call ended. The shares, issued at $16 in December, have not traded that high since and hit a low of $6.19 last week.

The Toronto company, which launched its service last Nov. 22, had a net loss of $102.7 million for the year on revenue of $6.9 million, including a fourth- quarter loss of $23.7 million on three-month revenue of $3.4 million. Year-ago comparisons are not meaningful.

Stock-based compensation for the year was $23.7 million, and chief financial officer Michael Washinushi observed that nearly half of the net loss came from non-cash accounting charges.

Washinushi also noted that CSR raised its basic monthly subscription fee in September by $2 to $14.99, and this is expected to add to revenue going forward.

CSR's acquisition cost per subscriber was $59 in the June-August quarter, down 10 per cent from the third quarter due to more factory installations by automakers led by General Motors, which owns seven per cent of CSR, as well as seasonal variations in promotional expenses.

Average revenue per subscriber declined slightly to $11.78 per month and despite the price increase ARPU is projected to continue slipping in the current quarter because of holiday-season promotions and discounts on multi-year packages.

``Holiday sales for the whole industry have become a little bit more expensive than where I would have had things modelled,'' said Bitove, who owns almost 60 per cent of CSR and also heads the Priszm KFC and Pizza Hut income trust (TSX:QSR.UN).

``The flip side is the OEMs (car manufacturers) _ we've got a lot more deals done a lot sooner than I personally had anticipated.''

Bitove declined to say how many of CSR's users _ 91,200 of whom pay their own way rather than getting promotional subscriptions through automakers or other sellers _ have bought home or mobile XM satellite radios and how many use car equipment.

President Stephen Tapp commented that CSR has an eight-year exclusive satellite deal to broadcast NHL hockey starting at the end of this season, and has bolstered its Canadian content with morning shows by Jeff Filion in French and Mike Bullard in English.

Asked how CSR is faring against competitor Sirius Satellite Radio Canada _ which is privately held by the CBC, Standard Broadcasting Inc. and Sirius Satellite Radio and does not release subscriber numbers, beyond saying in May that it had passed 100,000 _ Bitove replied that ``we both seem to be growing the category together.''

He added that his company is ``much better penetrated in the OEM and wireless platforms, and we contine to duke it out with them at retail.''

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Canadian Satellite Radio shares perk up on subscriber data
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