Quebecor CEO says company can expand nationally with or without Shaw's Freedom Mobile
The head of Quebec telecom giant Quebecor Inc. is reiterating his desire to expand the company’s footprint outside its home province.
In an interview Thursday, Quebecor President and Chief Executive Officer Pierre Karl Péladeau said his firm is ready to engage in talks with Rogers Communications Inc. if the company is compelled by regulators to divest Freedom Mobile as a part of its deal to purchase Shaw Communications Inc.
Peladeau said he thinks divesting Freedom Mobile would “be one of the best prospects” for Rogers’ management if the company wants to close its takeover of Shaw as quickly as possible.
“Rogers has been always in the forefront of growing cable and telecom industries in Canada. We have a lot of respect for them, we’ve been partners with them for many years, and we look forward to having an interesting possibility of making a transaction with them,” he said.
Rogers’ proposed $26 billion acquisition of Shaw is subject to a trio of approvals, with the Competition Bureau, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada all needing to sign off on the deal.
Those competition concerns have caught the eye of Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne, who said in March the deal has the potential to create “very serious” competition issues, and several telecom analysts have floated the potential of a Freedom Mobile divestiture as a potential remedy to get the Shaw acquisition across the finish line.
If Quebecor does take a run at acquiring Freedom Mobile, it would not be the first time the telecom operator looked to expand beyond its home province. Quebecor had preciously bought some spectrum in Ontario and Western Canada but retrenched to Quebec due to the intense competition brought by the likes of Rogers and BCE.
Though a deal for Freedom Mobile would give Quebecor turnkey access to hundreds of thousands of customers outside Quebec, Péladeau said the recent CRTC decision to allow Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) to piggyback on the incumbents’ wireless infrastructure opens the door to greater expansion even if it doesn't acquire Freedom Mobile.
“This decision is favourable for Quebecor and Videotron to have the capacity to grow in the incumbents’ territory,” he said.
“Without, or with, Freedom Mobile, this situation that is now available … is certainly something that creates another positive environment for Quebecor.”