A plan by Rogers Communications Inc. to invest $3-billion in Quebec shouldn’t hinge on its acquisition of Cogeco, the Montreal-based cable company said Friday.
Toronto-based Rogers has vowed to pump $1.5-billion into its telecom networks in Quebec over the next five years and make other investments in the province if it succeeds in its hostile bid for Cogeco Inc. and its subsidiary, Cogeco Communications Inc. Rogers has also promised to provide fifth-generation wireless service to 95 per cent of Quebeckers within five years, build a tech innovation hub in the province and keep the Cogeco headquarters and at least 5,000 jobs in Quebec.
In a statement issued on Friday, Cogeco said Rogers doesn’t need to acquire the Quebec cable company to make those investments in the province.
“If Rogers fails to invest, their competitors will take away its mobile customers, regardless of 5G," Cogeco said in its statement. “As far as Cogeco is concerned, the company remains focused on executing its profitable growth strategy, investing in its state-of-the-art broadband networks and offering leading edge services to its customers.”
Under the proposed $10.3-billion deal, Rogers would acquire Cogeco’s Canadian operations, while New York-based cable company, Altice USA Inc., would snap up its U.S. cable business, Atlantic Broadband.
Rogers chief executive Joe Natale told The Globe that deep-pocketed Rogers is best positioned to roll out 5G service in Quebec and the potential acquisition offers “immense” economic opportunities for the province. “The opportunities in 5G will change the economic landscape and the capabilities of this country forevermore," he said.
The Audet family, which controls the Cogeco companies through their ownership of multiple voting shares, has repeatedly said the family’s stake is not for sale. The Audets have the support of the provincial government, which on Tuesday passed a motion recognizing Cogeco’s “important role in the media and telecommunications world in Quebec," as well as the importance of its Montreal headquarters. Cogeco has pledged to invest $1-billion over the next four years in upgrading its cable networks.
Quebec Minister of Economy and Innovation Pierre Fitzgibbon said Friday that he welcomes investments from outside the province, but the decision of whether or not to sell Cogeco belongs to the Audets.
“It’s a prerogative the family has, which we have to respect,” Mr. Fitzgibbon said in an interview. He praised the family for its decision to keep Cogeco an independent, Quebec-based company and said it is doing well on its own.
“It did perform very well on the stock market. The company’s healthy," Mr. Fitzgibbon said. "Is 5G a reason why Cogeco should look at their ownership? I don’t think so.”
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