BCE, Astral submit new merger proposal to CRTC

Proposal addresses ownership concentration concerns
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Bell Canada Enterprises (NYSE: BCE), the parent company of Bell Canada, and broadcaster Astral Media on Monday submitted a revised merger proposal to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

In its revised proposal, reports The Globe and Mail, the pair promised that they would reduce their market clout by divesting various TV, radio and other media assets.

According to unnamed sources cited in the article, BCE has already held talks with a number of parties that would like to purchase the assets, including Astral's English-language television properties and other assets, it wants to sell.  

While the revised deal is still worth about $3.4 billion, it still has to get the approval of both the CRTC and the Competition Bureau, one that would make BCE a power player in Canada's broadcast market. It could take the CRTC until next spring to review the revised proposal.

However, BCE's asset sale could also get the attention of other players in the video business, including Rogers Communications (NYSE: RCI), which expressed interest in Astral's English specialty channels if they came up for sale, and Corus Entertainment.

Another likely bidder would be Cogeco, a major radio provider in Quebec that also considered making a bid on Astral before BCE moved to acquire the company.

Regardless of whether the revised deal goes through it will continue to draw fire from consumer competition groups and Bell's main rival Telus (Toronto: T.TO).

Telus previously said that a Bell/Astral combination would mean that BCE would have a 49.5 percent share of the English-language TV audience in Canada and would drive up prices and limit programming choices for consumers.

For more:
- The Globe and Mail has this article

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