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Corus to wholly own Teletoon, ABC Spark in revised Bell-Astral deal

Canadian conglomerate BCE's new bid to purchase Astral Media proposes that Corus Entertainment, entering into separate agreements with Shaw Media and BCE, acquire remaining stakes in specialty channels Teletoon and ABC Spark, and expand its presence in the French-language specialty market, to the tune of US$494 million.
March 5, 2013

Canada’s BCE has released details around its new bid to purchase Astral Media, after its first bid was turned down by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) last fall.

The new bid proposes that Corus Entertainment, entering into separate agreements with Shaw Media and BCE, acquire remaining stakes in specialty channels Teletoon and ABC Spark, and expand its presence in the French-language specialty market, to the tune of US$494 million.

As part of its deal to purchase Astral Media, Bell Media is required to sell Astral’s other kids channel, Family, Disney Junior,Disney XD and the French-language Disney Junior, and Musimax and MusiquePlus services through an auction process that is said to be currently underway.

The new deal has now been approved by the Canadian Competition Bureau, but still requires Canadian broadcast regulator CRTC’s approval. BCE is gearing up for round two in its US$3.38 billion quest to acquire Astral Media, the complete application for which will be made public in the coming weeks.

Pending regulatory approval, the deals together would result in Corus fully owning Teletoon, Cartoon Network Canada, ABC Spark and French-language specialty channels Historia and Series+.

The proposed deal with Bell will see Corus acquire the remaining 50% ownership interest in Teletoon (which is current held by Astral), and the Ottawa-based radio stations CKQB-FM and CJOT-FM (also currently owned by Astral), contingent on approval of the Bell-Astral deal. Separately, the deal with Shaw Media will see Corus acquire the remaining 49% interest in youth-oriented specialty service ABC Spark, which debuted in Canada last spring.

In addition, Corus, in agreement with Bell and Shaw, will acquire each of the companies’ respective 50% interests in French-language specialty channels Historia and Series+. Historia and Series+ are both currently 50-50 owned by Astral and Shaw Media.

The proposed deal gives Corus Entertainment a larger footprint in Québec and the French-language specialty market, according to a release from the company. Right now there is no firm timeline for the closure of the deal.

First announced in March 2012, the original proposed deal for Bell Media to acquire Astral Media was worth US$3.38 billion. It was rejected by the CRTC because, as regulator head Jean Pierre Blais said at the time, “At the end of the day, BCE demonstrated clearly that the proposed transaction was good for BCE, but we were not persuaded that it was in the best interest of Canadians.”

Because of the need for regulatory approvals, the outside date for the transaction has been extended to June 1, 2013 with both Astral and Bell Media having the right to extend that further to July 31, 2013.

With files from Wendy Goldman Getzler and Val Maloney

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