Rogers-Shaw merger mediation session fails to yield settlement

Rogers-Shaw merger mediation session fails to yield settlement
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick Sean Kilpatrick

Rogers Communications Inc. and Canada’s competition watchdog have failed to resolve their differences over the telecom giant’s $26-billion proposed takeover of Shaw Communications Inc. following a mediation period and weeks of talks.

In a joint press release Thursday evening, Rogers, Shaw and Quebecor Inc. said they are “disappointed” the mediation session did not yield a negotiated settlement.

The Competition Bureau has been trying to block the deal, arguing that the transaction would lead to worse service and higher prices for consumers.

“The Bureau’s unwillingness to meaningfully engage unduly delays lower wireless prices for Canadian consumers,” the release said.

Rogers, Shaw and Quebecor said they remain committed to completing the transaction.

In March, the CRTC conditionally approved Rogers’ acquisition of Shaw’s broadcasting services, but the deal still needs to get the green light from both the Competition Bureau and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

Thursday evening’s outcome comes just a few days after Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne put new conditions on the deal, specifically targeting the sale of Shaw-owned wireless carrier Freedom Mobile to Quebecor’s Videotron, a key component in the proposed transaction.

Champagne, whose approval is required for any spectrum licence transfer, said on Tuesday that Videotron would have to agree to keep Freedom’s wireless licences for at least 10 years.

He also said he would “expect to see” wireless prices in Ontario and Western Canada lowered by about 20 per cent, putting them in line with Videotron’s current Quebec offerings.

In response, Quebecor said it would accept the industry minister’s stipulations, agreeing to incorporate them in a new version of the transaction.

Quebecor agreed to buy Freedom Mobile for $2.85 billion earlier this year.

The fight will now move to public hearings before the Competition Tribunal, scheduled to begin on Nov. 7, which could drag on until mid-December.

Rogers is hoping to close the transaction by the end of the year, with a possible further extension to Jan. 31, 2023. The closing date has been delayed several times.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2022.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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