Rogers’ first round of approval for its $26 billion merger with Shaw received little pushback.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) held a hearing to discuss the broadcast aspects of the merger in November 2021, providing its approval, with conditions, in March 2022.
The companies also need approval from Innovation and Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) and the Competition Bureau. That hasn’t been as straightforward.
The Competition Bureau has been a strong voice of opposition, stating the merger will lead to higher wireless bills, among other issues, for Canadians. The sale of Shaw-owned Freedom Mobile to Québecor subsidiary Vidéotron for $2.85 billion did little to appease concerns.
Representatives from the bureau wrapped up a four-week tribunal hearing with lawyers from Rogers, Shaw, and Québecor earlier this month. The bureau argued the tribunal should block the deal in its entirety.
Chief Justice Crampton led a three-member panel that originally hoped to share a decision by Christmas. The tribunal will provide a 24-48 hour notice before issuing the decision.
Rogers and Shaw are on a tight deadline to close the deal by the end of the year. However, they have the option to extend it to January 31st. Anything past that date will see Rogers paying millions to bondholders.
But even if Crampton delivers a win for Rogers and Shaw, the companies will have weeks to get approval from ISED to make their deadline. Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne laid out several conditions that Vidéotron would need to fulfill before its takeover of Freedom Mobile is approved. Québecor’s CEO, Pierre Karl Péladeau, quickly indicated the company would accept the conditions.
Vidéotron can only acquire Freedom if Rogers’ takeover of Shaw receives full approval. It’s unclear if Champagne’s conditions for Vidéotron indicate how he’ll rule on the more significant merger. But if they are, the merger can be expected to close sooner rather than later.