Report: Bell to unveil new takeover deal

MONTREAL — Bell Canada is reportedly set to make a new offer to acquire rival Canadian broadcaster Astral Media.

Trading in Astral Media shares was halted on the Toronto Stock Exchange Friday morning following a report in the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper that Bell is set to announce a new deal to takeover Astral and that the announcement could come as soon as Friday.

Last month, Canuck regulator the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission surprised most in the TV biz by turning down the original $3 billion Bell-Astral deal, arguing that the acquisition would give Bell too big of a share of the Canadian TV marketplace. It was to have been one of the biggest media deals in Canadian history.

Late Friday morning, Astral released a statement to confirm that “it is in discussions with Bell to continue pursuing regulatory approvals for Bell’s acquisition of Astral, including, among other options, the filing of an application with the CRTC.”

The deal has to be completed by Dec. 16. The Globe report suggests that the new deal will include a promise by Bell to sell off most of Astral’s English-language TV stations, but keep the French-language stations. From the start, the biggest thing Bell wanted with the Astral acquisition was a much bigger footprint in the French-Canadian TV market.

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