Rogers-Shaw Merger Decision to Be Announced by Feds on Friday

The Globe and Mail reports that Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Minister François-Philippe Champagne is set to announce his decision regarding Rogers’ $20-billion acquisition of Shaw on Friday morning.

Two unidentified sources claim the announcement is related to the minister’s review of the takeover, set to take place tomorrow at 8:30 am EDT.

ISED issued their own press release less than an hour ago, giving the media barely a heads up on an announcement coming Friday morning, corroborating The Globe’s report on the date and time of the impending decision.

“The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, will hold a media availability on competitiveness in the telecommunications sector,” touts the ISED press release.

If approved, the deal would unite the country’s two largest cable networks. The acquisition was initially announced two years ago.

Industry experts anticipate that Champagne will approve the takeover with conditions related to wireless pricing. The approval would involve transferring Shaw’s wireless licenses to Quebecor’s Videotron, which has agreed to buy Shaw’s Freedom Mobile wireless carrier for $2.85 billion.

In recent weeks, Rogers and Quebecor have been working with Ottawa to finalize details concerning the affordability and accessibility of wireless services, as well as potential penalties for breaking their commitments after the deal’s completion.

Negotiations have also included discussions about reducing domestic roaming rates charged when Freedom Mobile customers roam on the Rogers network.

Champagne’s approval represents the final regulatory obstacle for the takeover, which has faced multiple delays and regulatory challenges, including opposition from the Competition Bureau.

However, the Competition Tribunal dismissed the bureau’s opposition last year, concluding that the acquisition, along with Freedom’s divestiture to Videotron, would likely result in a “more aggressive and effective” wireless competitor.

Reaction to the impending decision has cast doubt on positive outcomes for Canadian wireless consumers.

The University of Ottawa Law Professor Michael Geist said Champagne “will spin the Rogers-Shaw merger approval tomorrow as a win,” adding, “nothing says good consumer news like a Friday announcement before two weeks off with no House questions.”

“But at least we’re getting a common dongle policy,” said Geist, referring to the 2023 Budget and one of its goals to bring forward a united charging port and cable for electronic devices, a move likely to copy the moves of the EU.