BCE To Buy Astral Media
According to Bloomberg and the Washington Post, BCE, the largest telecommunications company in Canada, has reached an agreement to purchase its fellow Montreal-based company Astral Media, to the tune of $3.4 billion in cash and stock. The deal gives BCE a number of new media assets across the country, including radio stations and television channels. It is especially important in helping BCE become a media leader in Quebec's French-speaking market, according to company president and CEO George Cope.
In a conference call with analysts earlier today, Cope said the deal “puts us now head-to-head with our competitors in the marketplace.” Astral president and CEO Ian Greenberg, who will join the BCE board of directors, said that the transaction between BCE and Astral “is an excellent opportunity for Astral, its shareholders, and employees.”
Before the agreement can be finished, it will have to be approved by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and the Competition Bureau. Assuming the deal goes through, this will be Cope's third big acquisition since 2010. As part of what the CEO calls his “four-screen” strategy, he is looking to add content which he can sell on devices like smartphones and tablets. And the acquisition of Astral will certainly give him plenty of new content to use in his strategy.
Astral is the largest broadcaster of pay and specialty TV in Canada, as well as the country's largest radio broadcaster. The company owns eighty-three radio stations in fifty Canadian markets, under brands like Virgin Radio and EZ Rock. It also owns twenty-two television channels, including HBO Canada, the Movie Network, the Family Channel, and the French channels MusiquePlus and Super Ecran. BCE already owns the CTV television network, the Bell Radio Network (formerly known as CHUM Radio), and a number of specialty television channels.
The deal is valued at $50.36 per share of Astral stock, a thirty-eight percent increase from its closing price on the Toronto Stock Exchange yesterday. Shareholders of Astral will receive seventy-five percent in cash and twenty-five percent in stock. BCE has also said that it will take on $382.7 million of Astral's debt.
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