The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission begins an eight-day hearing on Friday that will examine Rogers Communications Inc.’s planned $3.4 billion acquisition of Shaw Communications Inc. It is one of the most complex deals to land before Canada’s watchdog body in years.
Rogers is being considered to benefit from Shaw’s wireless network, a move away from a landline business that is already being targeted by the federal government. The planned transaction will add millions of customers to Rogers’ ranks, including Shaw’s 10 million wireless subscribers.
“We have been told that the deal will not involve the spinoff of mobile spectrum because there is a natural equity in our existing spectrum holdings,” Butch Hallman, president of Rogers Media, said in an interview.
“We view mobile as central to our strategy to remain the dominant provider of content in the home, but also the ability to make Canadians more productive while on the move,” he said.
The hearing, titled Acquisition of Undisclosed Matters (Rogers-Shaw), will feature 45 witnesses, including a cross-section of participants in the telecommunications industry from across Canada, from regulators and content providers to industry stakeholders.
It begins on Friday, April 26, and is scheduled to end May 4. It will be held at the CBC headquarters in Toronto.
“The public hearings are the last step of the process before our decisions are announced,” said spokeswoman Alanna Taylor.
The proposed merger is subject to the CRTC receiving submissions, which have been due by April 25. The regulator will consider input from the public, industry, as well as consumer and provider representation, before making a final decision on the deal.
Communications regulator has been conflicted over deal
CRTC’s last months have been filled with close calls and backroom business deals. In October, it failed to approve Shaw’s takeover of wireless company Wind Mobile, and instead rejected a change in the way telecoms are regulated.
Then in February, the CRTC walked back part of a proposal it had made to renew Charter Communications Inc.’s national discount video streaming business in an attempt to help reduce its net debt. The regulator’s former chairman Jean-Pierre Blais stepped down in late March due to health reasons.