Rogers considering sale of Blue Jays, stake in Cogeco

Rogers Centre (Chris Young/CP)

TORONTO — Rogers Communications Inc. is considering the sale of such assets as baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays and a stake in media company Cogeco Inc. to free up capital for its main communications businesses.

The media giant’s chief financial officer Tony Staffieri said Tuesday at an industry conference that the company is looking for ways to "surface value" from the Blue Jays — which he said is a "very valuable asset for us that we don’t get full credit for."

He didn’t discuss who might buy the team, or if a deal would include the domed Rogers Centre, or what they would be worth.

"To be clear, there isn’t anything imminent that we are about to announce, but we’re certainly looking at the alternatives. Again, would like to get the content without necessarily having the capital tied up on our balance sheet," Staffieri said.

He also said the company is currently going through its budgeting purchase for 2018 and the focus will be on revenue growth and better margins at its wireless and cable divisions.

Staffieri made the comments during an on-stage interview at the UBS Global Media and Communications conference in New York, according to transcripts of the event provided by Thomson Reuters.

Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) has previously indicated it is exploring ways to get more value from its portfolio of assets, including the Jays, but Staffieri’s comments in New York were more specific.

He said the company still wants rights to sports programming — which is core to the company’s media business — but doesn’t need to own a team to have that, pointing to the company’s 12-year deal with the National Hockey League.

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"Relative to our overall asset portfolio, media is small," Staffieri said.

But he said sports content continues to have "healthy" margins and can complement the Rogers wireless and cable operations as well.

"Our focus in media will continue to be on the sports side of it. So don’t expect any type of expansion on the media side, other than continue to monetize the sports assets that we have," Staffieri said.

As for the company’s investment in Montreal-based Cogeco (TSX:CGO) and Cogeco Communications Inc. (TSX:CCA), a smaller cable and media company based in Montreal, Staffieri’s said there’s "probably better use" for that capital.

"There were some strategic benefits that we had hoped for with Cogeco and those seem to be further and further away," Staffieri told the conference.

The comments appeared to have little impact on stock prices at the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday. Shares of the two Cogeco companies were down less than one per cent and Rogers shares were up about one per cent.