Rogers has invited Québecor to join the bidding for Shaw’s Freedom Mobile, which Rogers and Shaw are trying to sell in order to obtain regulatory approval for their proposed $26 billion CAD merger — reports The Globe and Mail.
An unnamed source told the publication that Rogers’s bankers have reached out to bankers representing Québecor.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) rendered its approval of the Rogers-Shaw deal in March, but the Competition Bureau and the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada are yet to sign off on it.
The Competition Bureau said on Friday it plans to oppose the Rogers-Shaw merger, notifying both companies of its stance.
Freedom Mobile has about two million wireless customers in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario. 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 from four to three and likely lead to higher phone bills.
Québecor President and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau publicly expressed interest in buying Freedom Mobile when the Rogers-Shaw deal was announced in March 2021, and the company has even demonstrated that it can afford the acquisition.
However, when Rogers initiated talks with several potential buyers for Freedom Mobile earlier this year, Québecor and its Montréal-based telecom subsidiary, Vidéotron, were notably absent from the conversation.
In the meantime, Rogers has discussed a potential sale of Freedom Mobile with the rural internet service provider (ISP) Xplornet Communications Inc., as well as the Aquilini family, which owns the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. According to an unnamed source, the proposal from Xplornet parent company Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners is still in play and hasn’t been rejected by the Competition Bureau.
Freedom Mobile’s original founder and CEO, Anthony Lacavera, also wants to buy the company back but called Rogers’s sale process for the company a “non-competitive sham” after the telecom giant didn’t appropriately respond to his bid of $3.75 billion for the business.
For Québecor, acquiring Freedom Mobile could be the key to finally expanding outside Québec and working toward its plan to offer coast-to-coast wireless services in Canada. In the summer of last year, Vidéotron won $830 million worth of radio spectrum in Canada’s 3500 MHz 5G spectrum auction.