BCE stock rises on takeover speculation

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TORONTO -- Renewed takeover speculation fueled another jump in shares for Canadian phone giant and media group BCE Inc. on Tuesday.

Stock in BCE rose 6%, or CAN$1.96 ($1.70), to CAN$34.60 ($30.85) during morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange after Canadian buyout specialist the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, the phone company's largest institutional investor, said via SEC filing that it is now an active stakeholder "closely monitoring developments and exploring its options."

Montreal-based BCE owns and operates domestic satellite TV service Bell ExpressVu Llp. and holds a minority stake in the CTV television network.

Teachers, which holds a 5.3% stake in the phone giant, caused a jump in BCE shares March 29 as media outlets reported that it was in discussions with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts on a possible $24.3 billion takeover deal (HR 3/30).

In its SEC filing, Teachers said it never considered a formal bid for BCE with KKR. But the Globe and Mail newspaper reported Tuesday that Teachers is now talking with U.S.-based Providence Equity Partners Inc. about a possible BCE takeover.

The New York Times separately reported that Teachers is holding discussions about potential moves on BCE with Quebec pension fund giant Caisse de depot et placement and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Any takeover deal for BCE that includes a U.S. equity fund partner would have to be structured so a Canadian partner retains effective control of the culturally sensitive phone company.

Canadian law bars foreigners from owning more than 20% of Bell Canada, BCE's phone division, and 33% of its parent.
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