Canada's Astral Media Back in Talks With BCE on Possible Takeover

BCE logo

The $3.38 billion transaction, which was earlier denied approval by the CRTC, is being repackaged by both parties to overcome competition concerns.

TORONTO – BCE is repackaging its $3.38 billion takeover of indie broadcaster Astral Media to possibly convince a skeptical CRTC it should receive regulatory approval.

Montreal-based Astral in a statement Friday confirmed it is back in talks with the phone giant “to continue pursuing regulatory approvals for Bell's acquisition of Astral.”

Those negotiations include a possible re-application to the CRTC after the regulator earlier rejected the Astral takeover on competition grounds.

Astral Media could possibly find itself back on the auction block, with its varied TV, radio and outdoor advertising assets, including the The Movie Network and HBO Canada pay TV services, sold off piecemeal to avoid further clashes with the CRTC.

As part of that asset sales, BCE is expected to make a play for Astral’s French-language assets in Quebec so the phone giant can better compete in that province with rivals like Quebecor Media.

Astral, which halted trading in its shares early Friday on the Toronto Stock Exchange, said there’s no assurance any transaction with BCE will occur.

BCE faces having to pay out a $150 million break-up fee to Astral if the takeover deal is not completed.

BCE offered no comment when approached Friday morning.