Bell targets Canadian retail boost with Glentel acquisition

The parent company to Canadian telco Bell Wireless, BCE Inc, has confirmed its intentions to acquire Glentel, a wireless and mobile product distributor and retailer. The agreement will see BCE acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of the mobile retailer, in a deal worth approximately $670million.

Glentel, which operates nearly 500 retail locations across Canada, currently offers mobile products and services from several of the country’s mobile operators. It is believed it will continue to offer services from its existing distribution partners after the acquisition, such as Chatr, Fido, Rogers Wireless, SaskTel and Virgin Mobile. The retailer also owns, operates and franchises approximately 735 retail locations across the US, as well as an additional 147 in Australia and the Philippines.

Bell sees the acquisition as a prime opportunity to aggressively pursue an increased market share in the wireless retail sector. “There are clear growth opportunities ahead in Canadian wireless,” said Wade Oosterman, President of Bell Mobility. “This includes the significantly increased number of mobile customers with two or three year service contracts who will be eligible to renew their plans and change carriers over the next two years, a result of the federal wireless code of conduct implemented in 2013.

“Bell is ready to compete for their business. Supporting Bell’s commitment to deliver improved customer service, this transaction secures continued access for consumers to the convenient, high-quality customer experience offered by Glentel retail brands.”

The price of $26.50 per share offered to current Glentel employees is more than double its trading price when the announcement was first made. After news of the intended acquisition broke, share prices rose to $25.75 per share, implying some questions marks over whether the deal will complete.

According to Bloomberg, Greg MacDonald from financial analyst firm Macquarie Group believes the deal could raise some eyebrows about anti-competition.

“It locks up another 500 Canadian distribution points ahead of growing new entrant risk,” he said, before citing regulatory complications which could still arise before the deal sees its conclusion. “For this reason, we believe there is material risk the deal will not be approved by Competition Canada.”

When considering any potential question marks over anti-competition, it’s worth highlighting the position of each company in the wider context of the Canadian market. According to research by Ovum, Bell is the joint second-largest Canadian operator together with Telus, with both a few percentage points behind first-placed Rogers. The Canadian wireless market enjoys a reasonable level of national competition, with each province benefiting from local operators, such as SaskTel and Videotron, in Saskatchewan and Québec respectively.

Likewise, Glentel is one of a number of distribution firms in Canada. While Target Mobile, WirelessWave, Tbooth Wireless and Wireless etc. all fall under its brand, it does operate with a number of competitors such as BestBuy, Future Shop and a plethora of independent retailers across the country. So Bell will probably feel confident of the competition authorities finding in its favour.

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