Quebecor, Rogers Still in Talks with Feds to Finalize Shaw Deal: Report

Quebecor and Rogers are still working with the federal government on solidifying wireless affordability commitments to appease Industry, Science and Technology Minister François-Philippe Champagne, according to a report from The Globe and Mail.

Minister Champagne’s approval is the only remaining hurdle holding up Rogers’ proposed $26 billion takeover of Shaw Communications, as well as the $2.85 billion sale of Shaw-owned Freedom Mobile to Quebecor’s Vidéotron that’s part of the broader merger.

A January report suggested that Minister Champagne was looking for binding agreements with both Rogers and Quebecor to ensure cellular service affordability if the transactions are allowed to go through.

Specifically, Ottawa wants Vidéotron to commit to bringing wireless prices in the rest of Canada down to the same levels as Quebec, where cellphone bills are, on average, 20% lower than elsewhere, per Minister Champagne. Quebecor has also agreed to hold on to Freedom’s spectrum licences for at least ten years if the acquisition is approved.

Rogers, meanwhile, has been in talks with Minister Champagne to flesh out its commitment to spending $1 billion on bringing high-speed internet to rural, remote, and indigenous communities, according to The Globe and Mail‘s sources.

The parties are still finalizing the details of the pledges, including penalties if either of the companies fails to fulfill its promises, the sources said.

Last week, Minister Champagne told reporters that the process is taking so long because he wants to make sure that the decision he makes is in the best interests of Canadians. “When we have what we want, we will be able to announce it to Canadians and obviously render the decision,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Minister’s office said a decision will come “in due course.”

Owing to regulatory delays, Rogers, Shaw, and Quebecor have repeatedly extended their mutual deadline for the two transactions. Most recently, they pushed the deadline back to March 31, 2023.

In addition to waiting for Minister Champagne’s decision, the telecom giants are also facing a probe from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). While the CRTC approved the Rogers-Shaw deal last year, competitors like TekSavvy and Globalive Capital have urged the watchdog’s new leadership to review the Freedom-Vidéotron transaction.