Canada's Rogers, Shaw say merger must be allowed to proceed
TORONTO (Reuters) - Rogers Communications Inc's C$20 billion ($14.9 billion) acquisition of rival Shaw Communications Inc has been delayed long enough and must be allowed to proceed despite the competition bureau's opposition, Rogers said in a legal filing on Tuesday.
Canada's antitrust tribunal approved the transaction on Dec. 30 that would create the country's second-largest telecom firm but the competition bureau later appealed the tribunal's ruling.
Shaw called the appeal an "unmeritorious challenge" by the competition bureau to do a "once-in-a-generation" transaction in a separate court document filed later on Tuesday.
The merger is seen as a test case for Canada's ability to foster competition in its telecoms market, which has the highest wireless bills in the world for consumers, according to Rewheel, a Finnish telecom research firm.
The companies will face off against the competition bureau in a Federal Court of Appeal hearing on Jan. 24.
"This pro-competitive transaction has been delayed long enough and must be allowed to proceed," Rogers said in its filing.
The companies hope to wrap up the deal by its slated Jan. 31 close.
In its court document filed on Friday, the competition bureau said the tribunal made four errors in deciding to dismiss the application to block the acquisition, including failing to properly assess the “substantiality” of the substantial prevention or lessening of competition.
But Tuesday's document from Rogers argued the deal has already been subject to a long investigation, six months of close case management by Chief Justice Paul Crampton and Tribunal Chair Justice Andrew Little, a carefully sequenced exchange of evidence, two mediations, 16 motions, and 11 days of discovery.
"The Tribunal’s assessment of the actual Transaction was devastating for the Commissioner," said in the document it filed, adding that the deal will significantly enhance competition in the provision of both wireline and wireless services for Canadians.
Canada's Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne also plans to announce a decision on the transaction after the Federal Court of Appeal decision.
Shares of Shaw closed up 0.4% at C$38.28, below Rogers' offer price of C$40.50 from March 2021. Rogers shares ended up 0.5% at C$65.37.
($1 = 1.3387 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Maiya Keidan; Editing by Deepa Babington and Josie Kao)