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Corus nabs Astral stake

Toronto co. picks up 9.8% of voting shares

TORONTO — Corus Entertainment has picked up 9.8% of voting shares in Astral Media from sister company Shaw Communications in a deal worth C$10 million ($6.5 million).

Purchase fuels speculation that acquisition-hungry Corus is kicking the tires at Astral, a robust Montreal-based TV and radio company.

Corus director of communications Kerry Morgan denied that Corus was looking to buy more, adding that Astral was not for sale.

Toronto-based Corus actually bought $71.5 million worth of non-voting and voting shares from Shaw, but immediately sold the non-voting shares to an undisclosed financial institution, keeping hold of the 9.8% of the voting ones.

Morgan said the sale will reduce the company’s debt and includes a provision to buy the shares back.

Corus was formed 18 months ago as a spinoff of cabler Shaw Communications to appease the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which frowns on cable companies having large broadcast holdings.

Both Shaw and Corus are public companies controlled by Shaw family members. Corus has since been growing by leaps and bounds, including the purchase last fall of Toronto-based animator Nelvana Ltd., and more recently specialty channel the Women’s Television Network.