Canada’s industry minister on Monday said he hoped Research in Motion Ltd. would remain a national champion but added he did not know what would happen to the mobile device maker, given the “very aggressive” telecommunications sector.
“We never know what can happen but I’ve said – and I truly believe this – I hope BlackBerry will continue to be a Canadian champion in the world, that it grows organically,” Christian Paradis told Reuters in an interview in his office.
He continued: “This is my opinion here but that being said, we don’t know what might happen. The market is very aggressive. When you talk about the telecoms sector ... this is a very very aggressive sector.”
The head of China’s Lenovo Group Ltd. told a French newspaper last week that the firm might consider an acquisition of BlackBerry at some point in the future.
Mr. Paradis said that if Lenovo did make a bid, the Canadian government could examine it using national security guidelines designed to block foreign governments from gaining control over crucial parts of the economy.
“As the Industry Minister I don’t want to send a signal and I don’t want it to look like I prejudged a deal or not,” he added.
Industry analysts, noting the domestic furor caused when Chinese state-owned CNOOC Ltd. last year made a bid for Canadian energy firm Nexen Inc, say it is highly unlikely Ottawa would allow BlackBerry to be sold to a Chinese firm.
In the same sit-down Mr. Paradis said Canada remains open to foreign investment but will be cautious about liberalizing rules for sensitive sectors since such decisions tend to be irreversible.
“When you decide to go with these kinds of reforms, you cannot ratchet down after that. You can ratchet up but now down,” Mr. Paradis told Reuters.
He was answering questions about government plans in light of the 2008 Red Wilson report on boosting competition. It urged the government to liberalize or consider liberalizing foreign investment rules in telecommunications and broadcasting, the airline industry and uranium mining, and to allow mergers in the financial industry.
Mr. Paradis did lift restrictions on foreign investment in telecommunication providers with less than 10 per cent of the market, but he said the Red Wilson report advocated a broad review before opening the sector up further or allowing more foreign investment in broadcasting.
“We are not there at this point,” he said.
Even so, he hinted at that possibility in the event that current measures to boost telcom competition failed to bring lower prices and more choice for consumers.
“We cannot guarantee we will achieve what we want to achieve in terms of goals, when you talk about competition,” he said.
With a report from Randall Palmer
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