WINNIPEG – The proposed takeover of Manitoba Telecom Services by one of its rivals has taken another step forward.
The $3.9-billion friendly offer from BCE Inc. has received approval from the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench.
Manitoba Telecom shareholders previously voted in favour of the deal, which would combine the province’s largest telecom company with the group that owns Bell Canada.
The transaction remains subject to approvals from the federal minister for innovation and economic development, the CRTC and the Competition Bureau.
Some have raised concerns raised that consumers could face higher prices if Manitoba Telecom (TSX:MBT) is eliminated as an independent competitor to Bell and the other national mobile communications companies that operate in the province.
But advocates of the deal counter that Manitoba consumers and businesses could benefit from improved service if MTS is part of the BCE-Bell group (TSX:BCE), which includes not only telecom services but one of Canada’s largest media businesses.
BCE has committed to invest $1 billion over five years for Manitoba’s telecom infrastructure. It has also agreed in principle to sell about one-third of Manitoba Telecom’s monthly contract wireless customers and one-third of the MTS stores in Manitoba to Vancouver-based Telus Corp. (TSX:T).
It’s offering to pay a combination of cash and stock, worth $40 per share, for each share of Manitoba Telecom. It would also assume about $800 million of debt and add about 2,700 employees of MTS to its Bell Canada business.