CanWest is looking to grow southward

CanWest Global Communications Corp. is looking due south of the Canadian border for its next expansion opportunity.

Chairman Izzy Asper told the annual meeting of shareholders Thursday that the company hopes to establish a beachhead in a new business in fiscal 1997 and confirmed to reporters later that his sights are set on the United States.

Acquiring an interest in a TV station seems the most obvious way to gain access to the U.S. market but Asper wouldn’t rule out other options.

“There are lots of components to television,” he said. “There’s broadcasting, programming, production, distribution, sales — nothing is too outrageous for us to consider.”

In June, CanWest issued 5 million shares in a public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, putting 10% of the company’s equity in the hands of U.S. shareholders.

He said if CanWest gains a toehold in the U.S., Americans could be named to the board of directors.

After the meeting, Asper said Canada should allow greater foreign ownership of Canadian media companies pro-vided that countries taking advantage of it grant reciprocity.

“I need two hours a week on NBC for our Canadian programming,” he said. “I can’t get it.”

He said Canadian programming is every bit as good as U.S. fare but the networks have been too slow to accept it. “I’m impatient,” he said. “We’re making progress but I want to escalate that and the only way we’re going to do it is to get American stations.”

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