Quebecor says it remains committed to its NHL ambitions

Gary Bettman explains why Quebec City will not be getting an NHL franchise for the time being after officially announcing expansion to Las Vegas.

MONTREAL — Quebecor Inc.’s (TSX:QRB.B) sports and entertainment division — the group responsible for managing the Videotron Centre and its push to bring a NHL team to Quebec City — has a new boss.

Pierre Dion, the president and CEO of the media conglomerate, will take over that part of the operation, the company announced Thursday.

Dion’s new responsibilities demonstrate the importance the company is putting on the success of the new Quebec City venue and the return of the NHL to that market, company spokesman Martin Tremblay said.

Dion replaces Benoit Robert, who moves to an advisory role after moving to Los Angeles.

During a conference call to discuss Quebecor’s second quarter results, Dion said the company remains an "important partner" of the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman.

Dion said Bettman had recognized "the quality of the arena, the solid foundation of the Quebec City economy and qualifications of Quebecor to run a successful team."

The Videotron Centre had a larger deficit than expected in its first year of operation, forcing the municipality to pay $730,000 to offset those losses.

Quebecor reported Thursday that its net profit attributable to shareholders in the second quarter of 2016 fell to $9.8 million or $0.08 per basic share, down from $72.1 million or $0.59 per share last year.

Adjusted income from continuing operating activities of the Quebec communications giant increased 5.1 per cent during the same period, to $69.9 million from $66.5 million.

Quebecor’s total revenues increased in the second quarter by three per cent to $992.5 million.

The sports and entertainment sector was also affected by a lack of Hollywood productions at its cinema production branches. One year earlier, the movie "X-Men Apocalypse" was filming in Montreal.

The company’s media division was hit hard during the second quarter, with revenues of $229.2 million, down $22.4 million or 8.9 per cent compared to the second quarter of 2015.

Julie Tremblay, president of Quebecor Media Group, says operating profitability and advertising revenues at speciality channel TVA Sports were affected by the Montreal Canadiens missing the Stanley Cup playoffs, which had not been the case a year earlier.

The newspaper and magazine publishing revenue also declined, partly due to lower advertising revenues, but offset by increased revenues from billboard advertising and book publishing. Dion said the difficulty was temporary and that "the impact of unpredictable challenges would eventually lessen."

The telecommunications division remains strong, with $38.9 million in sales, a 5.2 per cent increase in revenue to $780.4 million.

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