Canadian telecom stocks were among the few bright spots in the stock market on Friday. And no wonder: That looming competitive threat, in the form of Globalive Wireless Management Corp., has been blunted by a ruling from the CRTC.
As the Globe's Grant Robertson reported: "The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission said [on Thursday]that Globalive's corporate structure ran afoul of the law because an Egyptian company, Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, has put up most of the money for the venture."
That might be a no-no. Globalive had been hanging over the entire sector lately, dampening share prices for incumbents BCE Inc. , Telus Corp. and Rogers Communications Inc. because it threatened to add a new competitive layer to Canada's wireless market. With that layer now at risk of being disallowed, the incumbents are breathing sighs of relief.
Or at least their investors are. In late-morning trading, Rogers was up 4.1 per cent, Telus was up 1.3 per cent and BCE was up 1.2 per cent - not bad, given that the S&P/TSX composite index was down 127 points or 1.1 per cent. (Full disclosure: I own Telus shares.)
The CRTC's decision was something of a shock to many observers, who had expected Globalive to get the stamp of approval, perhaps with some reservations.
But clearly, this battle isn't over yet. The upstart can appeal the decision to the Industry Minister. As well, Globalive isn't the only competitive threat looming: There is also DAVE Wireless.
Mark McQueen at Wellington Financial even floated the idea on his blog that Globalive could take a run at DAVE to satisfy CRTC requirements.
"One easy way for the Globalive wireless team to reduce their foreign content level is to bring in a domestic pension plan as a new equity partner to get Egypt's Orascom below the 50 per cent ownership threshold," he said.
"But the more synergistic way to pull that off is to merely buy [John] Bitove's DAVE Wireless and merge it into Globalive in an equity swap deal. The CRTC's concern about foreign control would likely be solved in a flash."
In other words, investors might not want to party with the telecom incumbents just yet.