Bell acquires Montreal-based media company Astral

Canadian telco Bell has formally agreed to acquire Quebec’s Astral Media for C$3.38bn ($ 3.4bn), as part of efforts to bolster its position in French-speaking Canada and deliver valued content to any broadband-connected screen.

Astral’s national media portfolio includes pay and specialty TV channels and services, radio stations, digital services, and out-of-home advertising activities, conducted on a national basis across Canada.

The deal will be funded with a combination of cash (approximately 75 per cent of the equity purchase price) and BCE common equity (approximately 25 per cent or C$750m), with Bell retaining the right to replace shares with cash, in whole or in part, at closing.

“Bell welcomes Astral and its strong team of media professionals, who have built an outstanding national media business, especially in the competitive Québec marketplace” said George Cope, President and CEO of Bell Canada. “This transaction further accelerates Bell’s strategy to deliver leading content like Astral’s across our world-leading networks to all the broadband screens – TV, smartphone, tablet or computer – that our customers may choose.”

Bell Canada launched its IPTV service ‘Fibe TV’ in Montreal a couple of years ago, delivered over its fibre-based network and offering over 100 high-definition channels, more than 70 international channels and over 20 thematic packages, as well as interactive features and whole home PVR capabilities.

Fibe TV is expected to be available to 5mn Canadian households by the end of 2015, whereupon Bell expects to become Canada’s largest TV provider, and to that end plans to invest billions of dollars in its fibre, satellite and wireless broadband networks in order to deliver the most extensive TV services possible.

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