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Analysts Skeptical of BCE-Telus Merger Prospects


29/11/2008

Renewed uncertainty this week about the future of Canada’s leading telecom operator (BCE Inc.) has fueled speculation that Burnaby B.C.-based telecom giant, Telus, might revisit a proposal to acquire its eastern counterpart. Most analysts remain skeptical about the rumours, however, citing major regulatory hurdles that would need to be overcome.

Telus officially dropped out of the running to purchase BCE in June 2007, citing “inadequacies” in the bidding process, but was thought to be keeping an eye open for another shot at the deal. But industry experts say that many of the same obstacles that prevented Telus from making a more serious play for BCE last year still play into the picture, making the ‘Belus’ merger a long shot for the time being.

“We believe the factors that prevented a successful pursuit by Telus in 2007 are still present, namely the wireless sector,” said UBS analyst, Jeffery Fan, in a note to clients, explaining that Canada’s Competition Bureau probably wouldn’t approve such a merger without major divestitures, which would limit the benefits of the deal.

A fully integrated ‘Belus’ would hold a massive 62% share of the Canadian wireless market, according to Desjardins Securities analyst, Joseph MacKay

MacKay called the figure “a bar that is too high, given incremental wireless competition is not likely to emerge until 2010 and not likely to take material market share for years after that.”

If new competitors are able to make a dent in the market share of established carriers, however, a merger between Canada’s two biggest telecom operators might be something to look for a few years down the road.



 

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