BCE takeover slowed by bondholders’ objections

11 Oct 2007

On Friday, two groups of bondholding investors in BCE and its subsidiary Bell Canada filed documents in the Quebec Superior Court contesting the pending takeover of BCE by a consortium led by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, reports The Globe And Mail. BCE had expected to get court approval for the CAD51.7 billion (USD48.5 billion) cash and debt deal on or soon after 10 October, according to BCE counsel Michel Lalande, but the timeline has now been extended to January. The takeover was cleared by an overwhelming majority of BCE’s shareholders and Canada’s competition authorities late last month. The bondholders have complained that shareholders will receive a significant premium while the value of their bonds has slipped, and are also claiming the right to vote, according to court filings. A large part of the purchase price is being financed through debt, hurting its credit rating and the value of the bonds. The bondholders have until 19 October to file their legal documents, and a judge will hear all proceedings between the parties starting 3 December, with final legal arguments scheduled for 8 January. A final decision is due by the end of January. Meanwhile, telecoms regulator the CRTC plans to hold public hearings into the transaction in mid-January. BCE says the bondholders’ views are without merit. Company spokesperson Bill Fox repeated an earlier statement that the company is on track to complete the deal in the first quarter of 2008.