Shaw Communications Inc. says requests by Bell and Telus to delay a hearing into Shaw’s proposed $26-billion merger with Rogers are disingenuous and driven by the rival telecoms’ own competitive interests.
Shaw said in a filing submitted to Canada’s telecom regulator on Wednesday that it’s unnecessary to postpone the hearing, currently scheduled for Nov. 22, because there is no uncertainty around Shaw and Rogers Communications Inc.’s “complete and unwavering commitment” to the merger. Rogers has also urged that the hearing go ahead as planned.
Shaw’s filing came after BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada, Telus Corp. and two advocacy groups wrote to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission earlier this week requesting the hearing be delayed until uncertainty around the control of Rogers is resolved.
Canada’s largest wireless carrier has for weeks been engulfed by a boardroom and family drama that broke out after Edward Rogers attempted to oust chief executive officer Joe Natale and several other executives. A dispute over which independent directors currently sit on the company’s board landed in the B.C. Supreme Court on Monday; the judge is expected to issue a ruling on Friday.
Those requesting a delay argue that because the case could be appealed, it may be months before control over Rogers is certain. In the meantime, they say, it is unclear which of two duelling boards has the authority to oversee the company’s affairs.
The CRTC is examining whether Rogers should be permitted to acquire Shaw’s broadcasting distribution business, which includes a satellite TV service called Shaw Direct, and cable networks in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northern Ontario.
Two other federal agencies – the Competition Bureau and the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development – are also reviewing the acquisition.
Shaw said that postponing the hearing would create “significant uncertainty” for the company and its customers, employees, shareholders and suppliers.
“Delay and uncertainty are especially harmful to a company that is being acquired,” Shaw said in its filing.
“Bell and Telus oppose the prospect of a more effective competitor with the scale to match their combined investments,” the company added, referring to the network-sharing agreement that its rivals have in place. “Their arguments for delaying the hearing are disingenuous and entirely driven by their competitive interests.”
The CRTC sent Rogers a letter on Wednesday inviting the company to submit “any supplemental information it wishes” before the regulator makes its decision. Rogers has until 1 p.m. on Monday to submit the information, the letter said.
Rogers said on Tuesday that members of the Rogers family do not disagree about the importance of the deal, and that it would be unfair and unreasonable to delay the regulatory process.
The power struggle at Rogers erupted after Mr. Rogers attempted to replace Mr. Natale with the company’s then-chief financial officer, Tony Staffieri. The move met opposition from Mr. Rogers’s mother and two of his sisters, as well as a group of independent directors.
Mr. Rogers, after being ousted as chair of the company’s board of directors, announced he had replaced five independent directors with his own slate of candidates through a written resolution. Lawyers for Rogers Communications argue that the move can only be done at a shareholder meeting.
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