BCE deal clears final hurdle


TORONTO -- The CAN$34.8 billion ($34.1 billion) buyout of Canadian phone giant BCE by a domestic pension fund and its U.S. equity partners has crossed its final regulatory hurdle Wednesday and appears headed for the finish line.

Industry Canada, an arm's length government agency that considers takeover deals on competition grounds, gave its approval to a deal that would see the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and American partners Providence Equity Partners, Madison Dearborn Partners and Merrill Lynch take the phone giant private.

Federal Industry Minister Jim Prentice, in an April 8 letter to BCE, said he believed the phone giant would remain "Canadian" according to current Canadian law, which ends any foreign-ownership concerns on the part of the federal government.

The BCE takeover deal, which represents Canada's largest-ever leveraged buyout, was approved earlier by the country's telecoms regulator and the Quebec Superior Court after an investigation into the shareholders agreement between Teachers and its U.S. equity partners.

The takeover deal is culturally sensitive because, in addition to its phone services, BCE's broadcast assets include a stake in national TV network CTV and ownership of Bell ExpressVu, the direct-broadcast-satellite TV service.

BCE said it hopes to complete the takeover by the end of its fiscal second quarter.