Freedom Mobile’s founder and former CEO, Anthony Lacavera, has said he is still willing to take Freedom Mobile off Rogers Communications Inc.’s hands for his original offer of $3.75 billion CAD — reports BNN Bloomberg.
Rogers’ proposed $26 billion acquisition of Shaw Communications Inc. is currently under threat, with the Competition Bureau last week notifying both telcos of its plans to block their deal over the inclusion of Freedom Mobile, Canada’s fourth-largest wireless provider.
On Monday, the Bureau officially petitioned the Competition Tribunal to prevent the Rogers-Shaw merger.
Lacavera has not received a positive response to his multiple attempts at trying to bring Rogers to the table for a possible sale, but the entrepreneur plans to approach Rogers with his offer once again.
“Our offer stands. It’s a funded, fully-financed offer. We’ve presented Rogers with evidence of the funding partners,” Lacavera said during a phone interview. “I plan to be in communication with Rogers this week.”
Freedom Mobile was established in 2008 by Lacavera as Wind Mobile. Lacavera built the wireless upstart into Canada’s fourth-largest carrier, before selling it off to Shaw, who renamed it Freedom Mobile, for $1.6 billion in 2016.
Rogers is currently scrambling to divest Freedom to appease the Competition Bureau and the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada, which has the same Freedom Mobile-shaped bone to pick with the merger hopefuls.
Innovation, Science, and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in March that Ottawa would not allow the “wholesale transfer” of Shaw’s wireless licences to Rogers, as doing so would reduce the number of wireless players in Alberta, B.C., and Ontario, where Shaw’s Freedom has about two million customers, from four to three and likely lead to higher phone bills.
Rogers has approached several potential buyers for Freedom Mobile over the past few months, including rural internet service provider Xplornet Communications Inc., backed by U.S.-based investment firm Stonepeak Partners LP, and the Aquilini family, which owns the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks.
None of the options have satisfied the Bureau or ISED Canada’s requirements so far. Rogers-Shaw even turned to Québecor Media Inc. for a potential deal last week.
Lacavera has expressed interest in buying back Freedom Mobile ever since the Rogers-Shaw deal hit a wall of regulatory woes, albeit to no joy. Last month, Lacavera called Rogers out for trying to pawn off Freedom in a sale process he said amounts to a “non-competitive sham.”
According to the Freedom Mobile founder, an independent, dedicated wireless company stands a better chance of competing with Canada’s Big 3 in wireless pricing than one owned by a regional cable provider like Québecor.
Not only does acquiring Freedom risk diverting Québecor’s attention away from its home province, but Lacavera said the company would also remain reluctant to slash wireless prices too aggressively out of fear that multi-market rivals like Bell and Telus will retaliate by going after its cable television and internet customers.
Even if Lacavera succeeds in bringing Rogers to the table, it is unclear if the Bureau and ISED Canada will even accept Lacavera as a new owner for Freedom.