Rogers, Shaw, and Québecor announced in a joint statement this morning that the deadline to complete the proposed Rogers – Shaw merger and the sale of Freedom Mobile to Québecor has been extended to Feb. 17, as they await the approval of the Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne.
This announcement comes after Minister Champagne told the Star on Friday that he is in no hurry to close the deal and that he needs to “fully understand” the decision of the federal court to approve the merger, and to ensure that the pre-conditional transfer of spectrum licenses from Shaw to Vidéotron would lead to lower wireless prices.
Rogers would have faced heavy financial penalties and risked lawsuits from investors and Shaw if no decision was reached before the initial closing date of Jan. 31.
Minister Champagne is set to lead the telcos to the finish line after the Competition Bureau’s motion to block the merger was rejected by the Competition Tribunal late December, and by the Federal Court of Appeal last week.
The key debate in the latter round of hearings was whether, if the merger had been examined independent of its remedy (sale of Freedom Mobile to Vidéotron to appease competition concerns), the decision around competition would have been the same.
Critics also weighed in on the merger last week during the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry and Technology (INDU) hearings, with several witnesses, including Anthony Lacavera, founder of Globalive and Andy Kaplan-Myrth, vice-president of independent ISP, TekSavvy, calling on the Minister to block the merger.
The CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) is also being called on by TekSavvy and other critics to review the preferential lower rates (illegal according to critics) offered by Rogers to Vidéotron to enable the Quebec-based carrier to appear as a fierce competitor.
The CRTC has, however, been silent since it approved the merger last year and it is uncertain whether the INDU hearings would have any influence on either the Minister or the CRTC’s stance.