The chief executive officer of Rogers Communications Inc. RCI-B-T says the telecom has a “good roster” of potential buyers for Freedom Mobile that should address competitive concerns surrounding the telecom giant’s $26-billion takeover of Shaw Communications Inc SJR-B-T.
The Competition Bureau has moved to block the merger of the country’s two largest cable networks, arguing in documents filed with the Competition Tribunal that none of the proposed deals for the sale of Shaw’s Freedom Mobile are sufficient to maintain competition in the wireless industry. The tribunal adjudicates applications filed by the Commissioner of Competition.
Freedom Mobile is Canada’s fourth-largest wireless carrier, after the Big Three telecoms, Rogers, BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada BCE-T and Telus Corp T-T. Freedom, with roughly two million customers in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, has been credited with driving down wireless prices in recent years.
“We heard the government in terms of the desire to [continue to] have a fourth wireless player in the market and we’re committed to work on that objective, and so we’re selling all of the assets of Freedom Wireless,” Rogers president and CEO Tony Staffieri said during TD Securities’ telecom and media conference Wednesday.
“We have a good roster, if I can call it that, of qualified bidders that we think are ultimately going to hit the mark in terms of what’s required,” Mr. Staffieri added.
Quebecor Inc., which owns Montreal-based telecom Videotron Ltd., is in talks with Rogers about potentially acquiring Freedom Mobile, The Globe previously reported. Other suitors that have expressed interest in the carrier include Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners, a New York-based private equity fund that owns rural internet provider Xplornet Communications Inc., and the Aquilini family, which owns the Vancouver Canucks.
Globalive Capital has offered $3.75-billion to buy back Freedom, formerly called Wind Mobile, a business Globalive founded in 2008 before selling it to Shaw for $1.6-billion in 2016. Globalive has alleged that Rogers has excluded it from the sale process.
Last week, Globalive bolstered its bid by announcing a network and spectrum-sharing deal with Telus that Globalive chairman Anthony Lacavera said would allow Freedom to expand nationally. The 20-year deal is conditional upon Toronto-based Globalive acquiring Freedom.
However, BCE’s chief financial officer said Wednesday that the Montreal-based telecom and media giant was not consulted on the deal that its network partner Telus struck with Globalive Capital.
BCE’s Bell Canada and Vancouver-based Telus have for years had an agreement to share parts of their cellular networks and spectrum, which refers to the airwaves used to transmit wireless signals. That agreement has provided the telecoms with a competitive advantage by allowing them to pool their assets, said Glen LeBlanc, Bell’s chief financial officer.
The addition of a third party to the shared Bell and Telus network would require a conversation between both parties, Mr. LeBlanc said during the TD telecom conference. Bell was not involved in the discussions between Telus and Globalive, Mr. LeBlanc said.
Representatives for Telus did not respond to a request for comment.
The Competition Tribunal has set a hearing for late June on the bureau’s application for an injunction that would prevent Rogers and Shaw from closing the deal. The merger between Rogers and Shaw also requires the approval of the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED).
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