Canada's Look goes on the block


TORONTO -- Canadian wireless cable operator Look Communications Inc. is up for sale as Canada's largest cable and phone players eye its vast wireless spectrum and broadcast TV license.

Toronto-based Look Communications on Monday said its board of directors has adopted a shareholder rights plan to give sufficient time to "consider and evaluate any unsolicited take-over bid" that may crop up as investment bank Greenhill and Co. completes a formal sales auction, likely by January.

Look Communications spokesman Peter Block added that Greenhill is looking at all options to maximize shareholder value, with selling the company as a whole the most likely outcome.

Look Communications, which saw its shares drop 1 cent to CAN$0.25 ($0.23) on the Toronto Stock Exchange during morning trading Monday, currently has about 100,000 wireless cable TV and Internet access customers.

But the company's most valuable carrot for domestic mobile phone carriers is its 92 MHz of licensed spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band. Look has exclusive use of those frequencies in Ontario and Quebec, the country's two largest markets, as part of licenses secured from the Canadian Radio and Television Commission in 1997 and 1998.

Block declined to put a value on Look Communications' spectrum, but market estimates put any likely price tag at between $100 million and $400 million. Block added that the actual value will depend on whether a new market entrant requires the spectrum to launch itself into mobile TV, for example, or whether an existing cable or phone giant wanted to keep the spectrum away from a market competitor.

Among those reportedly kicking the company's tires is Rogers Communications Inc., Canada's largest cabler and wireless phone operator, and the country's two largest phone giants, BCE Inc. and Telus Corp.

In addition to its voice and data spectrum for wireless phone operators, Look has a license from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to offer mobile TV services.

Also of interest to a possible suitor is about $400 million in tax losses.

Look Communications launched in 1998 with ambitions to challenge cable giants in Ontario and Quebec as a wireless cable operator using MDS (multipoint distribution system) technology to target and reach TV viewers.

But the company emerged from bankruptcy in 2002 with more modest ambitions to target apartment dwellers and commercial businesses with digital TV and wireless Internet reception.

Look Communications' board of directors is working on its sales process in partnership with Vaughan, Ont.-based Unique Broadband Systems Ltd., which owns 51% of the company.