Astral MediaBell Canada, the country’s biggest telecommunications company, has agreed to buy Montreal-based Astral Media Inc. for $3.38 billion, giving the company more control over content for its cellphone, internet and land-line services. The company has pledged to pay $50 per share for Astral, a 40 per cent premium from the $36.25 level that Astral Media shares closed at on the TSX on Thursday. Astral owns radio stations and television properties and has an advertising division that operates billboards across the country. Bell’s owner, BCE Inc., made the purchase announcement Friday morning, March 16.

Should the transaction go through, Bell will control, across the country:

  • 22 English-language specialty television channels.
  • 13 French channels.
  • 84 commercial radio stations across the country.

It’s a deal that really redraws the Canadian landscape in terms of television and radio services,” BNN’s Paul Bagnell said.

BCE already owns Bell Media, which includes the CTV network, BNN and other specialty channels.

The acquisition of Montreal-based Astral positions the company to compete with Quebecor and its subsidiary Videotron as well as Rogers Communications, Bagnell told CTV’s Canada AM Friday.

Astral Media is a major player in Canadian specialty (channels) and pay television and radio as well, particularly in the Montreal market,” he said. It also serves BCE’s “four-screen” strategy by reducing costs while offering additional content for television, computers, mobile phones and tablet devices, Bagnell said.

Astral operates 22 television services (including 13 French-language channels) that include The Movie Network and HBO Canada, and top specialty brands such as Canal Vie, MusiquePlus, Teletoon, Family and Disney Junior.

It also operates 84 radio stations in 50 markets, including NRJ, Virgin Radio, Rouge fm, EZ Rock and boom, as well as more than 100 websites and digital media properties.

Bringing together two respected and longstanding Montreal brands, Bell’s acquisition of Astral firmly establishes our company as Quebec’s media leader,” said BCE president and CEO George Cope.

BCE’s offer is valued at $50 per share for Astral’s non-voting shares, and $54.83 for the voting class. Shareholders of Astral would receive 75 per cent in cash and 25 per cent in stock.

“We believe that the transaction with Bell is an excellent opportunity for Astral, its shareholders and employees,” said Astral president and CEO Ian Greenberg.

Greenberg will join BCE’s board of directors.

In addition to impacting CTV TV stations in Alberta, the sale involves these Alberta radio stations:

CFRN 1260 AM Edmonton sports
CFBR 100.3 FM Edmonton active rock
CFMG 104.9 FM Edmonton soft adult contemporary
CKMX 1060 AM Calgary classic country
CJAY 95.1 FM Banff active rock
CIBK 98.5 FM Calgary rhythmic top 40
CJAY 92.1 FM Calgary active rock

The transaction will require approval from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and the Competition Bureau before it’s completed.