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Rogers Has ‘Good’ Buyers for Freedom; Bell Ghosted on Telus/Globalive Deal

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Rogers Communications Inc. CEO Tony Staffieri said on Wednesday that the telecom giant has a “good roster” of potential buyers for Freedom Mobile that should alleviate competition concerns over the former’s proposed $26 billion acquisition of Shaw Communications Inc. — reports The Globe and Mail.

The two telcos are scrambling to dump Shaw-owned Freedom Mobile in an attempt to obtain regulatory approval for their merger from the Competition Bureau and the  Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada.

Both are yet to sign off on the deal, and the Bureau has officially petitioned the Competition Tribunal to block it altogether. According to the antitrust watchdog, none of the remedies presented by Rogers-Shaw so far have satisfied its vision for a fourth wireless carrier to preserve competition.

“We have a good roster, if I can call it that, of qualified bidders that we think are ultimately going to hit the mark in terms of what’s required,” said Rogers President and CEO Tony Staffieri at the TD Securities’ telecom and media conference on Wednesday, referring to the sale of Freedom Mobile.

“We heard the government in terms of the desire to [continue to] have a fourth wireless player in the market and we’re committed to work on that objective, and so we’re selling all of the assets of Freedom Wireless,” said Staffieri.

Rogers has been in talks with several suitors 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 Vancouver Canucks.

Rogers-Shaw even turned to Québecor Media Inc. for a potential deal earlier this month. Québecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau has said the company is still interested in buying Freedom, but the regional operator also has “many alternatives” for its national expansion plans.

Anthony Lacavera, Freedom Mobile’s original founder, has expressed interest in buying back the wireless service provider but says he has been stonewalled from negotiations by Rogers. Last month, Lacavera called Rogers out for trying to pawn off Freedom in a sale process he said amounts to a “non-competitive sham.”

Globalive Capital, Lacavera’s investment company, has offered $3.75 billion for Freedom Mobile. Last week, Globalive announced a network and spectrum sharing agreement with Telus that would allow Freedom to expand nationally, should Lacavera succeed in acquiring it from the Rogers-Shaw merger.

However, Bell Canada CFO Glen LeBlanc said during the TD Securities conference that his company, which shares cellular networks and spectrum in several regions with Telus, was not consulted on the deal with Globalive.

The addition of a third telco to the shared Bell and Telus network would require talks between both parties, LeBlanc said. Bell was not involved in the talks between Telus and Globalive.

The Competition Tribunal will convene a hearing in late June on the Competition Bureau’s application for an injunction to prevent the Rogers-Shaw merger.

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