Canada's dominant telecommunications company has made a bid for Canada's biggest private television broadcaster. BCE is offering $2.3 billion for CTV in an all-cash takeover bid.
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The offer for CTV is $38 a share. CTV shares have been rising in recent weeks, driven by rumours of a possible bid for the broadcaster-- Quebecor Inc. and Corus Entertainment Inc. had also been mentioned as possible buyers.
CTV shares closed at $38.45 on Friday, up more than $7 on the day. At one point in the early-going, CTV stock was changing hands at $39.45. CTV's board of directors said it will be meeting "shortly" to consider the offer.
CBC News Online's Bob Sudeyko spoke to Janet Callaghan, VP of corporate media with Media Buying Services, who said BCE has set a very aggressive target.
Calling it the Canadian version of the AOL-Time Warner merger, Callaghan called it a very calculated gamble: "They're gambling that CTV shareholders might want to take this $38 because they think that maybe the TSN -- which is part of NetStar -- deal might not go through."
Flush with a warchest in the billions from the sale of stakes in Bell Canada and Nortel Networks, BCE has been on a buying binge lately, buying all of Teleglobe and taking a $95 million stake in the Internet portal Lycos.
The move for CTV is seen as part of BCE's strategy to acquire content for its numerous subsidiaries, including its joint venture between its own Sympatico Internet portal and Lycos.
Jean Monty, president and CEO of BCE, says the bid for CTV is in keeping with their strategy of "providing our customers with integrated information, communications and entertainment services."
"The strength of the CTV brand, its strong programming lineup and its award-winning expertise in the areas of news and sports will squarely place BCE as a leading player in the converging broadcasting and new media industries," Monty added.
CTV owns and operates 25 television stations across Canada. It also operates the Atlantic satellite service ASN and the specialty channel CTV Newsnet.
But acquiring CTV means BCE would also have access to content produced by The Comedy Network, CTV Pay-Per-View Sports, CTV Sportsnet, Outdoor Life Network and History Television.
The deal may also mean that BCE would gain access to content produced by the Discovery Channel and TSN if the CRTC approves CTV's bid to acquire a 68.5 per cent holding in NetStar Communications Inc.
Some analysts weren't expecting an offer for CTV until March. That's when the CRTC is to rule on its proposed takeover of NetStar. The regulator may also tell CTV to sell either TSN or its stake in the CTV Sportsnet cable network. But Monty said that would not, by itself, be a deal-breaker.
BCE's bid for CTV is subject to CRTC approval. And BCE set some conditions of its own. It said CTV would have to drop its poison-pill shareholder rights plan. And BCE's Monty also said the deal would be off if the CRTC turned down CTV's takeover of NetStar.