CanWest, Goldman Sachs cleared for takeover

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TORONTO -- Canadian broadcaster CanWest Global Communications Corp. and equity partner Goldman Sachs & Co. on Friday received final approval to acquire 13 cable channels from Alliance Atlantis Communications.

Winnipeg-based CanWest Global said that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Canada's TV regulator, removed the final hurdle to the takeover of the Alliance Atlantis channels, which are valued at about $1.4 billion.

The CRTC on Dec. 20 offered tentative approval to the deal, but asked CanWest Global to impose additional restrictions on Goldman Sachs to ensure that the U.S. investment bank exercises no day-to-day control over the channels.

With those foreign ownership conditions met, the 13 cable channels will now come out of trust to be fully controlled by CanWest Global.

An independent trustee was appointed last year to oversee the regulated Alliance Atlantis assets, pending a CRTC decision on the CanWest Global and Goldman Sachs takeover.

Goldman Sachs will now hold a third of the voting shares in the Alliance Atlantis cable channels, and a two-thirds equity stake, while CanWest Global will hold the remaining two-thirds voting shares and one-third equity stake.

As part of their agreement, CanWest Global will merge its Global Television network in Canada with the Alliance Atlantis channels, an arrangement that Goldman Sachs will have a chance to cash out of in 2011.

Prior to the final CRTC approval of the takeover, senior executives at Alliance Atlantis, including chairman Michael MacMillan and CEO Phyllis Yaffe, had already left the company.

Friday's announcement is expected to unleash another round of layoffs at Alliance Atlantis as CanWest Global looks to integrate the 13 cable channels with its own broadcast assets.
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