Political optics is likely a factor Canada’s industry minister is considering as he mulls whether to approve Rogers Communications Inc.’s $20-billion acquisition of Shaw Communications Inc., according to an expert in business mergers.

The historic, drawn-out deal between the two telecommunications rivals has cleared its biggest legal hurdles, but the sale’s closing date has been extended multiple times, now to March 31, as it awaits final approval from Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne.

Aaron Glick, mergers specialist at Cowen and Company, said public attention on the “huge transaction” means that Champagne will want to ensure the agreement is “iron-clad” before making a decision, in order to minimize blowback from the public and his political rivals.

“He has to be careful how he orchestrates his approval here,” Glick said in a Monday television interview with BNN Bloomberg.

“He doesn't want to look like he's being easy on big (corporations) and he wants to make sure that the public realizes that he's taking his time.”

Last month, the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed a request from Canada’s competition czar to overturn the Competition Tribunal’s approval of the sale, further clearing the way for it to go ahead.

Despite the legal wins, Glick said Champagne still has to consider the perception among the public that was championed by Competition Commissioner Matthew Boswell during the tribunal process: that the sale would lessen competition and lead to worse, more expensive cellphone service for Canadians.

In rejecting Boswell’s arguments, Federal Court Chief Justice Paul Crampton wrote in December that the sale is not likely to substantially lessen competition, result in “materially higher prices” or lead to other service impacts.

TekSavvy Solutions Inc. has also asked Canada’s telecommunications regulator to review the transaction – another moving part potentially delaying Champagne’s decision, Glick said, though he said it’s unlikely the regulatory body will ultimately delay the final closing date.

Champagne has previously said he would endorse the Rogers-Shaw sale with certain conditions in place, including the sale of Freedom Mobile to Quebecor and a guarantee of lower wireless prices in Ontario and Western Canada.

Glick said details about such business transactions can usually be finalized after closing, but in this high-profile case Champagne probably wants to iron out the fine print about how the conditions of the agreement will be enforced.

“He's got the legal ruling on his side, but he still has people in Parliament and other members of the government telling him to wait, criticizing the decision,” Glick said. “He just wants to be careful, make sure that he shows the Canadian public that he's taking his time and that all the details are going to be scrutinized before he grants a final approval.”

The companies have extended the deadline for the sale to March 31 – though Champagne told reporters this month that he is “not bound” by dates the parties decided between themselves.

“What interests me is the interests of Canadians. I will make my decision in time and place,” Champagne said in Montreal on Feb. 13.

Glick said deadlines still carry consequences for big corporate deals, as it’s the agreed-upon date that the parties can walk away if markets or financial conditions change.  

“When they're close to the finish line and the end is in sight, you can see some extensions, but they're real deadlines and sometimes if you push up against that deadline it can cause a transaction to fail,” he said.

With files from Bloomberg News.