The question comes up often, but for now, Rogers Communications Inc. is remaining coy about any interest in acquiring Allstream from Manitoba Telecom Services Inc., which is actively looking for buyers for its enterprise communications division.
Rogers chief financial officer Tony Staffieri joked on Tuesday that after the Toronto Blue Jays – the Rogers-owned baseball team on a playoff run – Allstream is the second-most popular subject he gets asked about these days.
As with Troy Tulowitzki's injury status, Mr. Staffieri, speaking at the BMO Telecom and Media conference in Toronto, had little news on Rogers' interest in Allstream (he echoed reports that the Jays shortstop is likely out for a couple of weeks "and we think, at worst case, to the end of the season – preplayoffs, we hope").
"We don't want to miss an opportunity if there is an opportunity there. But I will say that we've looked at it in the past and decided to pass on it," the CFO said of Allstream. "So, if there's enough accretive value at the right price, it could be something we're interested in, but that hasn't been the case in the past."
Some have speculated that an Allstream acquisition would make strategic sense for Rogers, with Barclays Capital's Phillip Huang writing last month that Allstream's 30,000-kilometre fibre network would help Rogers bulk up its fixed-line infrastructure and better compete with BCE Inc. and Telus Corp.
He also estimated that Rogers already does business with Allstream worth about half of the Street's consensus view of its takeout value of between $300-million and $400-million.
Meanwhile, MTS management believes it has superior insight on the government approval process this time around, after Ottawa blocked a 2013 deal to sell to Egyptian firm Accelero Capital Inc. for $520-million, citing national security concerns.
Also speaking at the BMO conference, MTS CEO Jay Forbes said the company has gained a better understanding of every department that would weigh in on a deal and what factors they would consider. He said MTS has only approached strategic buyers that it believes would "enjoy smooth sailing through the government requirements."
Chief corporate and strategy officer Paul Beauregard spent much of the summer in Ottawa working on the file and said in an e-mail that the company is now "in a great position to ask questions of bidders."
"With the answers, we can assess that risk ourselves and form a view as to whether they would be acceptable bidders for the government."
MTS hired TD Securities and CIBC World Markets to advise on the sale in July, and Mr. Forbes said it has since approached a number of strategic buyers to gauge their interest and has also been approached by non-strategic players.