Bell takeover of MTS re­ceives fi­nal ap­proval

Medicine Hat News - - WEST -

BCE Inc. cleared its fi­nal reg­u­la­tory hur­dle Wed­nes­day to ac­quire Man­i­toba Tele­com Ser­vices Inc., but it will have to trans­fer thou­sands of cus­tomers to an­other com­pany to main­tain com­pe­ti­tion in the prov­ince’s tele­com sec­tor.

The Com­pe­ti­tion Bureau and In­no­va­tion, Sci­ence and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Canada gave the green light to the $3.9-bil­lion deal, which had al­ready been ap­proved by MTS share­hold­ers. The deal, first an­nounced last May, is set to close March 17.

The ap­proval comes with a new re­quire­ment. Bell (TSX:BCE) and MTS (TSX:MBT) will have to trans­fer to Xplor­net Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Inc. — a pri­vately held New Brunswick In­ter­net ser­vice provider new to the wire­less in­dus­try — more than 2500 MHz of wire­less spec­trum cur­rently held by MTS, 24,700 wire­less cus­tomers and six re­tail stores.

The mea­sure is aimed at eas­ing con­cerns from some Man­i­toba politi­cians and con­sumer groups that prices will rise and jobs will be cut once MTS — one of the coun­try’s last re­gional car­ri­ers — is folded into Bell.

A top ex­ec­u­tive at Bell said Wed­nes­day the deal will main­tain com­pe­ti­tion and also lead to im­proved ser­vice, be­cause Bell has promised to in­vest $1 bil­lion over five years to im­prove In­ter­net and wire­less speeds and cov­er­age in Man­i­toba.

“In­ter­net ser­vices in Man­i­toba are 20 times slower than they are in the other parts of the coun­try where Bell op­er­ates,” said Mirko Bibic, an ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent and Bell’s chief le­gal and reg­u­la­tory of­fi­cer.

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