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Jul 11, 2022

Rogers shares slide with Shaw deal in doubt after outage

Consider nationalising telecom infrastructure: McMaster University’s Vass Bednar


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Shares of Rogers Communications Inc. dropped Monday — and underperformed peers — as the company faces fallout from a network outage that one analyst called “unprecedented,” as well as uncertainty about the implications for its planned $20-billion takeover of Shaw Communications Inc. and its financial performance in the second half of the year.

“Rogers incurred an unprecedented network outage on Friday, disabling wireless and internet services across Canada including Interac and some emergency services. … We believe the incident also introduces incremental regulatory risk into the Shaw transaction,” Tim Casey, a telecom, media and cable analyst at BMO Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients Monday.

“The Competition Bureau’s opposition is based on unrelated issues, but the wide-ranging impact of the outage will add to concerns regarding industry concentration.”

Rogers shares closed 4.61 per cent lower to $58.70 on Monday, while shares in its largest wireless rivals — Telus Corp. and BCE Inc. (which owns BNN Bloomberg through its Bell Media division) — ended the day in positive territory and down a fraction of a percentage point, respectively.

Meanwhile, Shaw shares fell further away from their $40.50 takeout price and closed 4.25 per cent lower at $34.67.

Rogers Chief Executive Officer Tony Staffieri, along with other telecom leaders, met Monday afternoon with Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne to discuss the outage and possible safeguards to prevent a similar disruption from happening in the future.

Champagne said he tasked the executives with reaching agreements on emergency roaming, mutual assistance during outages and a framework to improve communication with the public and authorities in the event of an outage – measures he said would “improve the resiliency of our network.”

Champagne also demanded that Rogers provide compensation to its customers.

“I did say to the CEO of Rogers that I expect them to proactively and fully compensate their customers. I told them, in a sense, that this was unacceptable. Full stop,” he said.

Consumers, businesses, and crucial emergency services were disrupted by Rogers’ outage, which started Friday morning and stretched into the weekend. U.K.-based cybersecurity firm Netblocks estimated a quarter of Canadian internet activity was taken offline at one point curing the outage.

The outage came at a bad time for Rogers, as it’s trying to ease concerns from antitrust regulators about scooping up Shaw. The two companies were unsuccessful in mediation talks with the Competition Bureau last week. The deal also requires the industry minister’s approval.

“Assuming a resolution is reached with the [Competition Bureau], the outage will also introduce more investor concerns (regarding) Rogers’ ability to execute on its $1 billion synergy target,” Casey said, referring to the Shaw transaction.

“From a high level industry perspective, the outage weighs against an otherwise constructive narrative with regulators coming out of the pandemic where Canada’s telecommunications infrastructure performed admirably during a period of rapid and systemic changes in broadband consumption.”

Casey estimates Rogers will take a $70-million revenue hit in its fiscal third quarter as a result of automatic two-day credits to customers because of the outage.

He also said the company could incur higher customer acquisition and retention costs in the second half of this year to “placate understandably wary and frustrated customers.”

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