TELUS, Rogers and Bell Want Ottawa to Relax Foreign Investment Rules

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Speaking with The Globe and Mail, Darren Entwistle, president and chief executive officer of Telus said the federal government should consider relaxed foreign investment rules for telecom companies over the next 3-5 years to create an even playing field.

“We believe in market liberalization. We don’t think that there should be any artificial regulation or fettered access to international capital markets. We want to enjoy that on a fluid basis,” said Mr. Entwistle.

He added: “We are not in favour of a tilted playing field where one segment of the market, according to certain terms and conditions, gets liberalized when another segment of the market does not. We don’t think that that’s fair.”

Mr. Entwistle says large telcos such as TELUS have invested $30 billion in infrastructure across Canada to upgrade networks since 2000, which means they have potentially “earned the right” to enjoy a level playing field.

“One thing I could say with confidence, I do think the telecommunications industry will get fully liberalized. It is not a question of if, but rather when,” he said.

Rogers and BCE also noted they favour even rules when it comes to foreign ownership rights. BCE spokesman Mark Langton told the Globe “for there to be real symmetry in communications foreign ownership rules, the Broadcasting Act would have to be considered as well.”

Last March, Ottawa announced changes to the Telecommunications Act to allow 100 per cent ownership of telcos with less than 10 per cent marketshare, a moved applauded by new wireless entrants Mobilicity and WIND Mobile. The latter exercised its right to these new rules as it recently became the first foreign-owned wireless carrier in Canada, as parent company Orascom took 99.3% interest in the telco.

On the other hand, incumbents are restricted to 33.3 per cent of voting shares being owned by foreign investment, which they believe is a disadvantage.

[via The Globe and Mail]

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